Shall vs Shall Be: Difference and Comparison

“Shall” indicates a future action or obligation, such as “I shall attend the meeting.” On the other hand, “shall be” is used to denote a state of being or existence, as in “The document shall be reviewed.”

Key Takeaways

  1. “Shall” is a modal verb used to express future actions or intentions, while “shall be” is a future tense construction emphasizing the state of being or existence.
  2. In legal or formal contexts, “shall” can indicate a requirement or obligation, while “shall be” can emphasize an inevitable outcome or consequence.
  3. “Shall” is more common in British English, while its usage has significantly decreased in American English in favor of “will” or “will be.”

Shall vs Shall Be

The term ‘shall’ is used to define actions related to the future. It can be used to make a decision. For example, I shall go shopping tomorrow means the person has made a decision to go shopping tomorrow. The term ‘shall be’ is used to define the state of being. It can be used to request for something. This term can also be used when a person has doubts about the final decision.

Shall vs Shall Be


Comparison Table

FeatureShallShall Be
Part of speechModal verbVerb phrase (modal verb + “be”)
FunctionExpresses future intention, suggestion, or promise (less common in modern English)No independent meaning; used in archaic or poetic language
FormCan be used in the first person (singular and plural)Requires the full conjugation of “be” for all persons and tenses
Examples* “Shall I help you with that?”<br> * “We shall overcome.” (promissory)* “It shall be done.” (archaic)
Usage frequencyLess common in modern EnglishVery uncommon in modern English


When to Use Shall?

Formal or Legal Contexts

  • Legal Agreements: “Shall” is frequently used in legal documents, contracts, and agreements to denote obligations or requirements. It implies a mandatory action or condition. For instance, “The tenant shall pay rent on the first day of each month.”
  • Statutory Language: Legal statutes use “shall” to establish requirements or duties. It imparts a sense of authority and necessity. For example, “All citizens shall abide by the laws of the land.”
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Declarations of Intent or Future Actions

  • Expressing Intent: In formal or literary language, “shall” can express intention or determination regarding future actions. It conveys a sense of certainty or promise. For example, “I shall do my utmost to fulfill this task.”
  • Commands or Directives: “Shall” is sometimes used in a commanding or directive manner, particularly in formal or ceremonial settings. It can indicate a strong assertion of will or authority. For instance, “You shall not pass!”

Interrogative or Polite Suggestions

  • Asking for Advice or Suggestions: In questions or polite suggestions, “shall” can be used to seek opinions or recommendations. It implies a collaborative decision-making process or seeks consent. For example, “Shall we proceed with the plan as discussed?”
  • Offering Choices or Invitations: “Shall” can also be used to offer choices or extend invitations in a courteous manner. It suggests politeness and respect for the other person’s decision. For instance, “Shall I open the window for some fresh air?”

Distinguishing Between “Shall” and “Will”

  • Traditional Usage: While traditionally, “shall” was used to indicate the future tense for the first person (I and we), and “will” for the second and third persons (you, he, she, it, they), modern usage sees “will” used more broadly. However, in formal or legal contexts, “shall” is still preferred for expressing obligations or requirements.
  • Emphasis and Intent: “Shall” can sometimes convey a sense of determination or inevitability, whereas “will” implies a simple statement of fact or intention. Understanding this subtle distinction can help in conveying precise meaning in communication.

When to Use Shall Be?

Defining Future State or Condition

  • Specification of Condition: “Shall be” is used to define or describe the future state or condition of something or someone. It indicates a forthcoming state or existence that is anticipated or required. For example, “The report shall be submitted by Friday.”
  • Implied Obligation or Requirement: In this usage, “shall be” carries a sense of obligation or necessity regarding the specified condition. It implies that the stated condition must be met or achieved within the specified timeframe.

Formal Instructions or Directives

  • In Formal Procedures: “Shall be” is commonly employed in formal instructions, guidelines, or procedures to denote what is expected or mandated to occur. It signifies a prescribed action or outcome. For instance, “All participants shall be present at the meeting by 9 a.m.”
  • Clear Communication of Expectations: By using “shall be,” the speaker or writer communicates clearly the expected state or condition, leaving little room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.
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Legal and Regulatory Contexts

  • Legal Requirements: Similar to “shall,” “shall be” is frequently utilized in legal documents, contracts, regulations, and statutes to establish specific conditions, obligations, or rights. It denotes what is legally mandated or required to be in effect. For example, “The defendant shall be present at the trial.”
  • Precise Legal Language: In legal contexts, “shall be” ensures precision and clarity in expressing legal obligations, rights, or responsibilities, leaving no room for ambiguity or uncertainty.

Passive Voice Construction

  • In Passive Constructions: “Shall be” is employed in passive voice constructions to emphasize the action performed on the subject, rather than the subject performing the action. It emphasizes the condition or state that will be assumed or experienced by the subject. For example, “The document shall be reviewed by the committee.”

Main Differences Between Shall and Shall Be

  • Usage in Future Tense:
    • “Shall”: Indicates a future action or obligation without specifying the state or condition resulting from it.
    • “Shall Be”: Specifies the future state or condition resulting from an action or obligation.
  • Formality and Legal Context:
    • “Shall”: Commonly used in legal, formal, or ceremonial contexts to denote obligations, intentions, or polite suggestions.
    • “Shall Be”: Often found in formal instructions, legal documents, or regulatory contexts to specify conditions, obligations, or requirements.
  • Clarity and Precision:
    • “Shall”: Expresses obligations or intentions without necessarily specifying the exact state or condition to be achieved.
    • “Shall Be”: Provides clarity by explicitly defining the future state or condition, leaving little room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.
  • Passive Voice Construction:
    • “Shall”: Can be used in passive voice constructions but doesn’t inherently emphasize the resulting state or condition.
    • “Shall Be”: Commonly used in passive constructions to emphasize the condition or state that will be assumed or experienced by the subject.

Difference Between Shall and Shall Be

Last Updated : 02 March, 2024

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14 thoughts on “Shall vs Shall Be: Difference and Comparison”

  1. English grammar can indeed be quite complex. This article provides a useful breakdown of the proper usage of ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’ in various linguistic contexts.

  2. Excellent explanation of modal verbs in English grammar, especially the use of ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’ in different contexts. It helps to clarify any doubts and use them correctly in our writing and speech.

    • Absolutely! It’s a very informative article that could be a great resource for anyone wanting to improve their language skills.

  3. The detailed comparison between ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’ offers valuable insights into the complexities of English modal verbs. A highly informative read for language enthusiasts.

  4. I found this to be quite insightful and educational. Understanding the differences between ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’ helps in crafting clearer and more accurate language expressions.

  5. I beg to differ. The use of ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’ seems a bit redundant in modern English, especially with how they are increasingly used interchangeably.

    • I agree with you, James. The distinction between ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’ seems almost negligible in modern language usage.

  6. An excellent article that provides a detailed elucidation of the distinctions between ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’. It serves as a useful reference for those who seek a deeper understanding of English grammar.

  7. I appreciate the thorough explanation of the uses of ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’. It’s enlightening to understand the subtle differences and how they impact sentence structure.

  8. I respectfully disagree with the article’s emphasis on the significance of ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’. In contemporary language, these distinctions are overlooked without affecting comprehension.

  9. This article is quite enlightening. It effectively explains the nuanced differences between ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’, shedding light on their precise usage in English grammar.

  10. This article provides a comprehensive comparison between ‘shall’ and ‘shall be’. It’s a valuable guide for anyone who wants to understand the nuances of these modal verbs in English grammar.


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