When the word "shift" is used as a verb, it means to move or to change. It’s also a word popularly used when changing from one gear to another on a car or on a bike.

  • We shifted some money from one bank account to another.
  • The wind is shifting from the south to the southeast.
  • David always shifts his car into a lower gear when he climbs this steep road.
  • I shift gears a lot while riding my bike.
  • The company is shifting some employees from the afternoon to the evening.
  • We need to shift some weight in the truck so that it’s more evenly distributed.

When used as a noun, "shift" means change or move, but it’s also used for an amount of time at work. Some companies and organizations operate 24 hours a day, which is divided into three equal shifts: the day shift, the afternoon shift, and the night shift.

  • Jan works the second shift from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Sometimes her husband works the overnight shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • Most workers prefer the day shift from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • John is making a shift into a new career.
  • Did you notice a sudden shift in the wind?
  • A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court represents a major shift for how business and government will now operate.


Doctors must always be available at a hospital, so some of them have to work the overnight shift.

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This page was first published on June 30, 2012. It was updated on February 18, 2016.