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Shall vs. Shall be: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Published on February 18, 2024
Shall implies obligation, intention, or determination. Shall be refers to future state or condition.

Key Differences

"Shall" is traditionally used to express a strong intention or determination, often in formal or legal contexts. It carries a sense of command or obligation. Conversely, "shall be" specifically refers to a future state or condition, indicating something that is expected to happen or be the case.
In terms of usage, "shall" is more direct and often used in formal rules or regulations, signifying a mandatory action. "Shall be," on the other hand, is used to describe a future state, focusing on the outcome or result of an action or condition that is to occur.
"Shall" is often found in legal, formal, or procedural documents to state requirements or duties. "Shall be" is used to articulate future conditions, especially in contexts where future states or scenarios are being described or predicted.
In imperative sentences, "shall" is used to give orders or instructions, reflecting authority or a mandate. "Shall be" is used in predictive statements, where the focus is on describing what will happen or be in the future.
The use of "shall" is becoming less common in everyday language, often replaced by "will." However, "shall be" maintains its relevance, especially when outlining future plans or expectations in a formal context.

Comparison Chart


Expresses obligation or intention
Indicates future state or condition


Often used in legal or formal settings
Used to describe future scenarios or outcomes

Sentence Type

Common in imperative sentences
Common in predictive or descriptive sentences


Assertive, indicating a command or determination
Neutral, focusing on future occurrences

Usage Trend

Decreasing in casual speech, still prevalent in formal writing
Consistently used in formal contexts

Shall and Shall be Definitions


Offers or suggestions in questions.
Shall we begin the meeting?

Shall be

Used in formal or legal texts for future requirements.
The rules shall be enforced starting next month.


Implies inevitability or certainty in a formal context.
Justice shall prevail.

Shall be

Describes a future state or condition.
The hall shall be ready for the event.


Expresses future action (formal).
You shall receive your package tomorrow.

Shall be

Refers to a future transformation or change of state.
The caterpillar shall be a butterfly.


Used in laws, regulations to indicate requirements.
Applicants shall provide all necessary documents.

Shall be

Predicts a future occurrence in a formal tone.
It shall be sunny tomorrow.


Indicates a strong intention or determination.
We shall overcome these challenges.

Shall be

Indicates a planned or expected future action.
All employees shall be notified of the changes.


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.


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.


To owe; to be under obligation for.


To be obliged; must.


Can "shall" be used in questions?

Yes, often in offering suggestions or seeking decisions.

What does "shall be" indicate?

It refers to a future state or condition.

Can "shall be" imply obligation?

Yes, particularly in formal or legal contexts.

Is "shall" imperative?

It can be, especially in formal or legal directives.

What is the primary function of "shall"?

It's mainly used to express determination, intention, or obligation.

How does "shall" differ from "will"?

"Shall" is more formal and sometimes more imperative than "will."

Is "shall be" predictive?

Yes, it's often used to describe future situations or expectations.

Is "shall" still common in modern English?

It's less common in casual speech but prevalent in formal writing.

How is "shall be" used in legal texts?

To specify future conditions or requirements.

Is "shall" mandatory in legal documents?

Often, it indicates a requirement or mandatory action.

Why use "shall be" instead of "will be"?

"Shall be" is more formal and sometimes indicates a stronger sense of planned action.

Can "shall" imply certainty?

Yes, especially in formal or emphatic statements.

Does "shall" have different meanings in British and American English?

Usage is similar, but "shall" is somewhat more common in British English.

Can "shall" be replaced with "must"?

In some contexts, especially for obligation, but they're not always interchangeable.

Is "shall" used in contracts?

Yes, frequently to indicate obligations or conditions.

Is "shall be" common in everyday language?

It's more common in formal or planned contexts.

Is "shall be" future tense?

Yes, it specifically refers to future conditions or states.

Are there synonyms for "shall"?

"Will," "must," or "is/are to" can be synonyms, depending on context.

Does "shall be" imply a passive state?

Not necessarily, it can be active or passive depending on context.

How does context affect the meaning of "shall"?

In legal contexts, it implies obligation; in casual contexts, it's more about intention.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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