Uses of Should

Indirect speech

Should is the past tense of shall in indirect speech.

  • The officer said, ‘The scoundrel shall be given a good beating.’
  • The officer said that the scoundrel should be given a good beating.

Duty and obligation

Should can be used with pronouns of all the three persons to talk about duty and obligation.

  • We should help the poor and the needy.
  • We should not lie.
  • We should all work for the common good.
  • You should pay the fees in time.

Conditional clauses

Should can be used in conditional clauses expressing possibilities, suppositions etc.

  • If she should come, ask her to wait.
  • Should it rain, we will cancel the trip.

Should is often used in main clauses which are preceded or followed by a clause expressing unreal conditions.

  • If I were you, I should accept this offer.
  • No Sam, I shouldn’t do that, If I were you.

Note that this kind of sentence is often used to give polite advice or gentle admonition.


Should is often used to express possibility or likelihood.

  • I should be able to finish this work in time.
  • You should be able to beat him.

After lest

Should is the only auxiliary verb that can be used after lest.

  • Watch and pray lest you should fall into temptation.

Should and shall

Should expresses less possibility than shall.

  • I shall be able to meet Peter.
  • I should be able to meet Peter.

Here the first sentence expresses a greater possibility of the event – meeting Peter – taking place.