should - definition and synonyms

modal verb 

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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 question tags: 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?

      What should be taught in our schools?

      There should be a law against spreading false rumours.

      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 get a first class degree.

    should have (done something):

    They should have got 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.

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  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 film.

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  5. 5
    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.

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  6. 6
    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.

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  7. 7
    British used for saying what you would do or how you would feel in a situation that you imagine

    I should go mad if I had to spend any longer in this place.

    If there was a problem, I should know exactly what to do.

    ‘Will you come to London?’ ‘I should love to, but I can’t leave Emily here on her own.’

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

     Synonyms and related words
  8. 8
    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
  9. 9
    formal used for saying what the purpose of an action is

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

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  10. 10
    used for saying what someone decides, suggests, or orders

    Our orders were that we should advance towards San Pedro.

     Synonyms and related words
See also