Definition of should in English:

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Pronunciation: /ʃʊd/

modal verb (third singular should)

1Used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions: he should have been careful I think we should trust our people more you shouldn’t have gone
More example sentences
  • They should make it their duty to make everything as simple and straightforward for you as possible.
  • When a person enters the army, they have to swear an oath, and they should fulfil their obligation.
  • At the very least the council should assume a duty of care to all the kids using this scheme.
1.1Indicating a desirable or expected state: by now pupils should be able to read with a large degree of independence
More example sentences
  • You would think that people with this distressing condition should not be in jail at all.
  • He believed there should be a stamp duty or tax on a second seller of rezoned land.
  • One of the features of the new mood is that religion should be effective in the marketplace.
1.2Used to give or ask advice or suggestions: you should go back to bed what should I wear?
More example sentences
  • One woman on a recent programme suggested that everyone should wear British clothes.
  • Official advice is that men should not drink more than three to four units a day, and women no more than two to three daily.
  • Once you know where you are going to travel, you should seek medical advice.
1.3 (I should) Used to give advice: I should hold out if I were you
More example sentences
  • I shouldn't worry if I were you.
  • I should dress warmly if I were you.
2Used to indicate what is probable: £348 m should be enough to buy him out the bus should arrive in a few minutes
More example sentences
  • All these factors should be enough to gain Magee victory, probably on points.
  • The yellow bus scheme should alleviate any worries parents have about public transport.
  • Having won in Katowice, England should be good enough to do it again at home.
3 formal Expressing the conditional mood:
3.1(In the first person) indicating the consequence of an imagined event: if I were to obey my first impulse, I should spend my days writing letters
More example sentences
  • A friend suggested if I were an American, I should pass the US Foreign Service exam.
  • I signed a ‘living will’, making it clear that, if I were terminally ill, I should receive no more than palliative care.
3.2Referring to a possible event or situation: if you should change your mind, I’ll be at the hotel should anyone arrive late, admission is likely to be refused
More example sentences
  • If he feels that strongly about the current situation should he not be campaigning for someone else?
  • Perhaps other people in my situation should not disregard this opportunity if offered.
  • Huntley said that should such a situation arise, he would report it to a senior member of staff.
4Used in a clause with ‘that’ after a main clause describing feelings: it is astonishing that we should find violence here
More example sentences
  • It seems to me revealing that Mr Halley and Mr Gibbins should describe him as if he were one and knew what he was doing.
  • I am astonished that you should take exception to an obviously Platonic enthusiasm.
  • He was so anxious that she should like them and they her.
5Used in a clause with ‘that’ expressing purpose: in order that training should be effective it must be planned systematically
More example sentences
  • Alongside these menacing words is a call for self-sacrifice, in order that democracy should prevail.
  • He appealed to his relatives and friends to encourage the player so that he should remain focused in his football career.
6(In the first person) expressing a polite request or acceptance: I should like some more, if I may we should be grateful for your advice
More example sentences
  • I should be grateful if you could draw this letter to the attention of your readers.
  • I should like to complain about the failure of the BBC to cover the 50th celebration of Eurovision last night.
  • If Mr McIntyre has such evidence, I should like him to let me have it so I can investigate his claims.
7(In the first person) expressing a conjecture or hope: he’ll have a sore head, I should imagine ‘It won’t happen again.’ ‘I should hope not.’
More example sentences
  • In the final analysis, we should hope that fear of global warming will subside.
  • I should imagine the Elliotts feel the same way.
  • It's not overly complicated, which would appeal to the majority I should imagine.
8Used to emphasize to a listener how striking an event is or was: you should have seen Marge’s face
More example sentences
  • You should have heard it echoing down the corridor, hilarious and beautiful all at once.
  • Oh, and you should hear the ghastly screaming noise his girlfriend makes at night.
  • If you thought that the other house had a bad record, you should hear about this one.
8.1 (who/what should —— but) Emphasizing how surprising an event was: I was in this shop when who should I see across the street but Tobias
More example sentences
  • I snuck downstairs into the luxurious media headquarters, and who should I see but the two girls from that now-famous beer commercial.
  • Our photographer was dispatched to get a picture of the distressed bird lover, but on the way back, what should he see but 30 ducks waddling towards him.


As with shall and will, there is confusion about when to use should and would. The traditional rule is that should is used with first person pronouns (I and we), as in I said I should be late, and would is used with second and third persons (you, he, she, it, they), as in you didn’t say you would be late. In practice, would is normally used instead of should in reported speech and conditional clauses: I said I would be late; if we had known we would have invited her. In spoken and informal contexts the issue rarely arises, since the distinction is obscured by the use of the contracted forms I’d, we’d, etc. In modern English uses of should are dominated by the senses relating to obligation (for which would cannot be substituted), as in you should go out more often, and for related emphatic uses, as in you should have seen her face! For a discussion on the use of should of instead of should have, see have (usage).


Old English sceolde: past of shall.

Words that rhyme with should

could, good, hood, Likud, misunderstood, pud, stood, understood, withstood, wood, would

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: should

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