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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English scholde, from Old English sceolde, first and third person preterite form of sculan ‎(owe", "be obliged). Related to shild and shildy.




  1. (auxiliary) Used to form the future tense of the subjunctive mood.
    If I should be late, go without me.
    Should you need extra blankets, you will find them in the closet.
    • 1922, Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
      It was a long weary time, for the Boy was too ill to play, and the little Rabbit found it rather dull with nothing to do all day long. But he snuggled down patiently, and looked forward to the time when the Boy should be well again, and they would go out in the garden amongst the flowers and the butterflies and play splendid games in the raspberry thicket like they used to.
  2. (auxiliary) Be obliged to; have an obligation to; indicates that the subject of the sentence has some obligation to execute the sentence predicate. Or that the speaker is giving some strong advice, but has no authority to enforce.
    What do I think? What should I do?
    You should never drink and drive.
    You should always wear a seat belt.
  3. (auxiliary) ought to; speaker's opinion, or advice, that an action is correct, beneficial or desirable.
    You should brush your teeth every day.
    I should exercise more often, but I'm too lazy.
    • 2012 August 21, Pilkington, Ed, “Death penalty on trial: should Reggie Clemons live or die?”, The Guardian:
      Next month, Clemons will be brought before a court presided over by a "special master", who will review the case one last time. The hearing will be unprecedented in its remit, but at its core will be a simple issue: should Reggie Clemons live or die?
  4. (auxiliary) Will be likely to (become or do something); indicates a degree of possibility, or probability, that the subject of the sentence is likely to execute the sentence predicate.
    When you press this button, the pilot flame should ignite.
    You should be warm enough with that coat.
  5. (formal or dated) A variant of would.
    • 1817, Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey‎
      I should like to dine with him. I dare say he gives famous dinners.
    • 1900, L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
      "If our friends, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, were only with us," said the Lion, "I should be quite happy."
    • 1900, L. Frank Baum , The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Chapter 23
      "Your Silver Shoes will carry you over the desert," replied Glinda. "If you had known their power you could have gone back to your Aunt Em the very first day you came to this country." "But then I should not have had my wonderful brains!" cried the Scarecrow. "I might have passed my whole life in the farmer's cornfield."

Usage notes[edit]

  • Should has, as its most common meaning in modern English, the sense ought as in I should go, but I don't see how I can. However, the older sense as the subjunctive of the future indicative auxiliary, shall, is often used with I or we to indicate a more polite form than would: I should like to go, but I can't. In much speech and writing, should has been replaced by would In contexts of this kind, but it remains in conditional subjunctives: should (never would) I go, I should wear my new dress.
  • (obligation): Contrast with stronger auxiliary verb must, which indicates that the speaker believes the subject is required to execute the predicate, or have to which indicates that the speaker believes the subject is required to execute, although speaker might disagree with the principle, and should which is merely advice - take it or leave it.
  • (likely): Possibility, or probability. Contrast with stronger auxiliary verb in the affirmative must, and negative sense can't, which indicate that there is a logical imperative certainty that the subject will (or will not) execute the predicate. Also compare with the weaker might, which indicates a 50/50 possibility, or probability.
  • See the usage notes at shall.



Related terms[edit]

  • shoulde (archaic spelling of should)
  • shouldst (archaic second-person singular of should)
  • should've (contraction of future perfect subjunctive auxiliary phrase should have)


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.


should ‎(plural shoulds)

  1. A statement of what should be the case as opposed to what is the case.
    • 2003, Robert L. Leahy, Overcoming Resistance in Cognitive Therapy[1]:
      However, we can address maladaptive shoulds by examining the differences between prior events, causes, proximate causes, and moral responsibility.

See also[edit]