Distinguishing Between Must & Shall

Must and shall are words in the English language that have similar meanings. Both indicate that something is mandatory and should be carried out as a duty. However, shall is more commonly used in legal circles, while must is used more often by everyday people. Many believe shall to be more formal of the two and better suited for use in legal documents and contracts to emphasize a role or responsibility. This article examines these two words in detail to determine if there are any significant differences between them.


Shall is a verb that indicates a strong desire, intention, or assertion. It also refers to something that will take place in the future. It is used to give an order or make a promise, and it indicates the inevitability of something or an event. Take a look at the following examples to understand the meaning and usage of shall in the English language. It is similar to will when used in the first person.

• You shall complete the job by tomorrow (order)
• The train shall arrive tomorrow noon (future event)
• Justice shall be served (inevitability)
• The tenant shall make payment on every 5th day of a month (obligation)


Must is a word that indicates the necessity or requirement of something. It can be used as a noun when it means something not to be missed or overlooked. It is something that is obligatory in nature or is required by law. It is also used to express physical necessity. Must also helps in arriving at a conclusion by using logic. Here are some examples of must to make its use and meaning clear.

• You must register to be able to vote (requirement)
• We must have oxygen to survive (physical necessity)
• You must not play after dark (command)

Key Takeaways

  • Shall is used to indicate a legal requirement as in law and contracts.
  • Shall indicates a duty imposed upon an individual.
  • Must is used when the subject is inanimate and in everyday speech.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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