From Middle English schal (first and third person singular form of schulen), from Old English sceal (first and third person singular of sculan (“to be obligated or obliged to, shall, must, owe, ought to”), from Proto-Germanic *skulaną, from Proto-Indo-European *skel- (“to owe, be under obligation”). Cognate with Scots sall, sal (“shall”), Dutch zal ("shall"; from zullen), Low German schall, ("shall"; from schölen), German soll ("ought to"; from sollen), Danish skal ("shall"; from skulle). Related to shild.
- (modal auxiliary verb, defective) Used before a verb to indicate the simple future tense in the first person singular or plural.
- I shall sing in the choir tomorrow.
- I hope that we shall win the game.
- 1900, L. Frank Baum , The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Chapter 23
- "Then, having used up the powers of the Golden Cap, I shall give it to the King of the Monkeys, that he and his band may thereafter be free for evermore."
- Used similarly to indicate determination or obligation in the second and third persons singular or plural.
- (determination): You shall go to the ball!
- (obligation): Citizens shall provide proof of identity.
- Used in questions with the first person singular or plural to suggest a possible future action.
- Shall I help you with that?
- Shall we go out later?
- Let us examine that, shall we?
- (obsolete) To owe.
(Can we add an example for this sense?)
- Shall is about one fourth as common relative to will in North America as in the UK. Some in North America may consider it formal or even pompous.
- In the past, will and shall have been used similarly as auxiliary verbs for the future tense. The simple future tense traditionally uses shall for the first person ("I" and "we"), and will for the second and third persons.
- I shall go.
- You will go.
- An emphatic future tense, indicating volition of the speaker, reverses the two words, using will for the first person and shall for the second and third person.
- I will go.
- You shall go.
- Usage can be reversed in questions and in dependent clauses—especially with indirect discourse. For example: Shall you do it? anticipates your response I shall do it. Or: he says that he shall win or he expects that he shall win anticipate his saying I shall win, not I will win.