How to use should in English sentences
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Should is a modal verb. It is the preterite of shall (not used as often). We use should to give advice or suggest something, or to give our opinion. It’s less strong than must or have to. Should also serves to express a certainty.
Give advice or make a suggestion
Should indicates what should be done and is used as a recommendation or advice:
- You should read this book, it’s great.
- You look tired. You should go to bed.
- You should go out more often.
- When you go to Paris, you should visit the Louvres.
To say that something is wrong:
We can use should in negative form to advise against or say that something is wrong:
- We shouldn’t leave without saying goodbye.
- I shouldn’t listen to you.
- She shouldn’t eat too much.
- You shouldn’t work so much.
- He shouldn’t talk like that to his mother.
- You shouldn’t believe everything he says.
To request an opinion or advice
- Should we invite Kevin to the party? – Yes, I think we should.
- What should I do?
Express a regret or reproach
With the formula should + have + verb in the past participle, we express a regret or a reproach:
- You should have checked the timetable.
- I should have studied more but I was too tired.
- We should have taken the train.
- You should have come to the party last night.
- You should have given your brother the key yesterday when he asked for it.
Compare should (go) and should have (gone) in the following examples:
- You should eat your breakfast.
- You should have eaten your breakfast.
Give your opinion
We often use should with I think / I don’t think / Do you think… ? at the beginning of the sentence. This allows for the expression of personal judgment.
- I think she should stop smoking.
- I don’t think we should tell her.
- You should be more careful.
- Do you think Sarah should see a doctor?
Express a certitude
We also use should to express a certainty, a very high probability:
- This is not normal, he should be here by now.
- She should pass her exams.
- By now, they should already be in Singapore.
- There are plenty of restaurants in the town. It shouldn’t be difficult to find somewhere to eat.
When the probability concerns the past, we use should have + past participle:
- They should have finished already.
- He should have eaten by now.
Express an obligation that is less than necessary
Sometimes should be used instead of must to make instructions, orders or rules more polite and less strong (we often see this on notices or information boards):
- Passengers should check in at least 2 hours before departure time.
- On hearing the fire alarm, hotel guests should leave their room immediately.
Express an unfulfilled obligation
In this case, we use should + be + verb -ing, to say that the subject does not act as it should.
- You should be wearing your seatbelt.
- We should be studying for the test.
OTHER VALUES OF SHOULD
One can use should in two types of subordinates in that:
1 – To express a judgment, after a sentence beginning with an adjective such as strange, funny, interesting, interesting, surprised, surprised, surprising + that… or by ‘it’s important/necessary/essential/vital that … should’.
- It’s strange that you should say that.
- I’m amazed that he should think that.
- It’s essential that everyone should be here on time.
2 – After some verbs expressing an order, a request, such as suggest, insist, propose, request, recommend:
- She insisted that we should sing the song aloud.
- They demanded that he should repay the money.
- She insisted that I should have dinner with her.
⚠️ However, it is not mandatory to use should in the above sentences!
- It’s strange that you should say that. = It’s strange that you say that.
- I’m amazed that he should think that. = I’m amazed that he think that.
- It’s essential that everyone should be here on time. = It’s essential that everyone be here on time.
- She insisted that we should sing the song aloud. = She insisted that we sing the song aloud.
- They demanded that he should repay the money. = They demanded that he repay the money.
- She insisted that I should have dinner with her. = She insisted that I have dinner with her.
With if or in case, to express a possibility:
- If/in case they should come, tell them to telephone.
⚠️ To express an obligation we use would have to… and not should:
- If my dad was sent abroad I
shouldwould have to quit my school.