Meaning of SHOULD in English

should S1 W1 /ʃəd; strong ʃʊd/ BrE AmE modal verb ( negative short form shouldn’t )

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: sceolde 'owed, had to' ]


a) used to say what is the right or sensible thing to do:

He shouldn’t be so selfish.

Children shouldn’t be allowed to play in the street.

‘I don’t care what people think.’ ‘Well, you should.’

Why shouldn’t I smoke if I want to?

b) used to say what would have been right or sensible, but was not done:

They should have called the police.

2 . ADVICE used to give or ask for advice:

What should I do?

Should I trust him?

You should read his new book.

I should stay in bed if I were you.


a) used to say that you expect something to happen or be true:

It should be a nice day tomorrow.

Try phoning Robert – he should be home by now.

Australia should win this match.

‘Artistic people can be very difficult sometimes.’ ‘Well, you should know – you married one.’

b) used to say what was expected, but did not happen:

It was an easy test and he should have passed, but he didn’t.

4 . CORRECT THING used to say what is the correct amount, the correct way of doing something etc:

Every sentence should start with a capital letter.

What do you mean, there are only ten tickets? There should be twelve.

White wine, not red, should be served with fish.

5 . ORDERS formal used in official orders and instructions:

Passengers should proceed to Gate 12.

6 . AFTER 'THAT' British English used in a ↑ clause beginning with ‘that’ after particular adjectives and verbs:

It’s strange that you should say that.

It is essential that he should have a fair trial.

The residents demanded that there should be an official inquiry.

7 . POSSIBILITY used to talk about something that may possibly happen or be true:

Naturally, he was nervous in case anything should go wrong.

What if I should fall sick and not be able to work?

should somebody/something do something

Should you need any help (=if you need any help) , you can always phone me at the office.

8 . IMAGINED SITUATIONS especially British English formal used after ‘I’ or ‘we’ to say what you would do if something happened or was true:

If anyone treated me like that, I should complain to the manager.

I should be surprised if many people voted for him.

9 . REQUESTING/OFFERING especially British English formal used to politely ask for something, offer to do something, or say that you want to do something:

I should be grateful if you could provide me with some information.

‘What can I get you?’ ‘I should like a long cool drink.’

We should be delighted to help in any way we can.

I should like to thank you all for coming here tonight.

10 . PAST INTENTIONS/EXPECTATIONS used as the past tense of ‘shall’ after ‘I’ or ‘we’ to say what you intended or expected to do:

We knew that we should be leaving the next day.

11 . what should I see but something/who should appear but somebody etc used to show that you were surprised when you saw a particular thing, when a particular person appeared etc:

Just at that moment, who should walk in but old Jim himself.

12 . you should have seen/heard something spoken used to emphasize how funny, strange, beautiful etc something was that you saw or heard:

You should have seen the look on her face when I told her I’d won first prize.

13 . how/why should ... ? used to express surprise that something has happened or that someone has asked you a particular question:

Why should anyone want to marry Tony?

Don’t ask me. How should I know?

14 . I should think/imagine/hope spoken

a) used to say that you think or hope something is true, when you are not certain:

I shouldn’t think they’ve gone far.

‘I suppose there’ll be a lot of complaints?’ ‘I should imagine so.’

b) used to emphasize that you are not surprised by what someone has told you because you have moral reasons to expect it:

‘She doesn’t like to hear me swearing.’ ‘I should think not.’

‘He did apologize.’ ‘I should hope so, after the way he behaved.’

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.