Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

should - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

modal verb     should pronunciation in American English
Should is usually followed by an infinitive without “to”: You should eat more fresh fruit. Sometimes should is used without a following infinitive: I don’t always do everything I should.
Should does not change its form, so the third person singular form does not end in “-s”: She should see a doctor about that cough.
Questions and negatives are formed without “do”: Should we come back later?You should not bring up embarrassing topics.
The negative form should not is often shortened in conversation or informal writing to shouldn’t: Those kids shouldn’t be in there.
Should is often used in tag questions: We should leave a tip, shouldn’t we?
Should has no participles and no infinitive form.
There is no past tense, but should have followed by a past participle can be used for referring to actions that did not happen or for actions that have probably happened: I should have brought an umbrella (=I did not bring one).The meeting should have finished by now (=it is likely it has ended).
When indirect speech is introduced by a verb in the past tense, should can be used as the past tense of shall: I explained that I should be too busy to see them the following day.
  1. 1
    used for talking about what is right, sensible, or correct
    1. a.
      used for saying or asking about the right or sensible thing to do or the right way to behave

      Parents should spend as much time with their children as possible.

      It’s an amazing book – you should read it.

      You shouldn’t drive so fast.

      What should I do? Should I look for another job?

      There should be a law against spreading lies.

      What should be taught in our schools?

      They should be ashamed of themselves.

      Synonyms and related words
    2. b.
      used for saying what is correct, especially when the situation is different from this

      There should be a comma after “Yours sincerely.”

      The total should come to $728.50.

      Synonyms and related words
  2. 2
    used when you have strong reasons for believing or expecting something

    There should be a knife in the drawer.

    There’ll be lots of games, so it should be fun.

    Sheila’s a brilliant student – she should graduate with honors.

    should have (done something):

    They should have gotten home by now.

    That was disappointing – we should have won that game easily.

    Synonyms and related words
  3. 3
    used after “if” or instead of “if” for describing a situation that may possibly happen

    Should you need help, do not hesitate to call me.

    If anything should happen to me, please give this letter to my wife.

    Synonyms and related words
  4. 4
    used for saying what someone thinks is important

    It is essential that we should protect the environment.

    Curtiz was determined that Ingrid should star in the new movie.

    Synonyms and related words
  5. 5
    used for saying what someone decides, suggests, or orders

    Our orders were that we should advance toward San Pedro.

    Synonyms and related words
  6. 6
    used for describing a fact or event that someone has a particular feeling or opinion about

    It’s hardly surprising that people should be suspicious of politicianspromises.

    How sad that she should have no one to comfort her.

    Claudia was shocked that anyone should believe such a scandalous story.

    It’s odd you should mention Ben – I was just thinking about him.

    Synonyms and related words
  7. 7
    formal used for saying what the purpose of an action is

    He used a false name so that no one should discover his secret.

    Synonyms and related words
  8. 8
    British used for making polite requests or statements about what you prefer

    I should be grateful for a prompt reply.

    I should like:

    I should like to introduce our guest speaker.

    I should like to see you alone for a moment.

    Synonyms and related words
  9. 9
    British used for saying what you would do or how you would feel in a situation that you imagine

    If we had stayed any longer, we should have missed our train.

    Synonyms and related words
  10. 10
    British used about a situation in the past when you said or knew what you would do or what would happen

    I said that I should be happy to cooperate with the investigation.

    We realized that we should have to pay a large sum to the lawyers.

    Synonyms and related words
  • Facebook
  • Twitter


a lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures such as comfort and cosiness in the home, and spending time with friends and family

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play