Should As A Modal Auxiliary Verb

Should is a modal auxiliary verb. There is no –s in the third person singular.

  • He should be here soon. (NOT He shoulds …)
  • You should mend your ways.

Should is followed by an infinitive without to. Questions and negatives are made without do.

  • You should go now.
  • Should I go now?
  • No, you should not.

Note that should is the past equivalent of shall in indirect speech.

  • They asked, ‘What shall we do?’
  • They asked what they should do.


To express obligation

Should is often used to talk about duty or obligation. It can also be used to say or ask what the correct or best thing to do is.

  • You should tell the truth.
  • If you are not feeling well, you should consult a doctor.
  • There should be an investigation into the cause of the accident.

Note that should is not as strong as must.

In questions, should is used to ask for advice or instructions.

  • It is rather cold here. Should I turn the heating on?
  • What should we do now?
  • Should I seek his opinion?
  • Should we talk to him?

To express probability

Should can express logical probability.

  • You should find this grammar book helpful.
  • He should be here soon – he left home at six.
  • ‘Granny will be staying with us for a couple of months.’ ‘That should be nice.’
  • I should be able to beat him.
  • Mount Everest should be visible from Tiger Hill if the sky is clear.

Should have + past participle

The structure should have + past participle can be used to talk about past events which did not happen.

  • should have sent the money this morning, but I forgot.

This structure can also be used to talk about past events which may or may not have happened.

  • They should have reached home by now. It is 10 o’clock.

We can use should not have + past participle to refer to unwanted or unnecessary things that happened.

  • You shouldn’t have said things like that to her.
  • It is very kind of you, but you shouldn’t have bothered.

Should or Would?

In British English, both would and should can be used after first person pronouns (and we). There is no difference in meaning.

  • would/should like some sweets before I go to bed.
  • We would/should be happy to receive them at the airport.

Should after why

Should can be used after why to suggest surprise.

  • Why should anyone want to buy something so useless?
  • Why shouldn’t she buy it if she can afford it?
  • I don’t see why we should have to pay for your mistakes.

Should in subordinate clauses

Should can be used after certain adjectives expressing personal judgments and reactions. Examples are: odd, strange, sad, unfair etc.

  • It is strange that she should find old men attractive.
  • It is odd that she should want to trust him again.
  • It is unfair that she should have died so young.

This also happens after adjectives and nouns expressing the importance of an action. Examples are: necessary, important, essential, vital, eager etc.

  • It is important that the meeting should be a success.
  • It is necessary that she should be told.

Other cases

Should can used after so that, in order that, for fear that, in case and lest to show the purpose of an action.

  • He took an umbrella so that he shouldn’t get wet.
  • He ran lest he should miss the train.
  • He took his umbrella in case it should rain.

Should in conditional clauses

Should is used in conditional clauses expressing possibilities, suppositions etc.

  • If he should come, ask him to wait.
  • Should it rain, there will be no picnic today.

Note that if he should come indicates less likelihood of his coming than if he comes. The sentence means something like this: There is not much chance of his coming. But if he turns up, ask him to wait.


Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets. You may also want to check out my other blogs IELTS Practice and NCERT Guides

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.