Language: Old English
Origin: sceolde 'owed, had to'


modal verb
should S1 W1 negative short form shouldn't

right thing

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.


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.

expected thing

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.

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.


formal used in official orders and instructions:
Passengers should proceed to Gate 12.

after 'that'

XX 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.


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.

imagined situations

formal especially British EnglishXX 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.


formal especially British English 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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

I should think/imagine/hope

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.'

Dictionary results for "should"
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