Site icon Learn American English Online




The word "shall" is a modal verb that is similar to the modal verbs "should" and "will." This is not a commonly used verb; however, there are some specific applications and popular expressions that you should know about. The word "shall" is also one of those things that make American English different from British English. In countries where British English is spoken, "shall" is much more common.

If you do hear "shall" used in the United States, here are some examples:

  • Where shall we go?
  • What shall we do today?
  • Shall we go?
  • Shall we? (This is an abbreviation for "Shall we go"? but it may also be used when asking another person to join in an activity.)

When expressing one’s determination to do something, the word "shall" might be used, especially when a person delivers a speech:

  • We shall succeed in this struggle.
  • It shall take years to reach this goal, but in the end, it shall be done.
  • We shall overcome!

The word "shall" appears in older versions of the Bible, such as the King James Bible published in 1605. Because the Bible is often quoted word for word by Biblical scholars and other Bible enthusiasts, you will hear quotations such as these from the Ten Commandments (adhered to by followers of Judaism and Christianity):

  • Thou shalt not kill. (shalt = shall; thou = you)
  • Thou shall have no other gods before me. (God is the one and only. Worship no other!)
  • Thou shalt not steal.

a child shall lead them

A little child shall lead them.

Legal documents also include the word "shall" when referring to an obligation or some duty under the law. Some legal experts claim this to be an outdated usage; however, there is the possibility that you will come across it when examining a contract or an agreement.

  • The Lessor shall provide to the Lessee a minimum of 60 days notice prior to the termination of the lease.
  • The buyer shall allow the seller of the property twenty-four hours to vacate the premises after the closing date.
  • The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances. (50 U.S. Code 1542)

Click here for more vocabulary.

January 20, 2020



Exit mobile version