AskDefine | Define should

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English sceolde, preterite form of sculan.


  • /ʃʊd/, /SUd/
  • Rhymes: -ʊd


should (simple past of shall)
  1. The speaker—but not necessarily the subject of the sentence—intends for the subject to execute the sentence predicate.
    Contrast with stronger auxiliary verb must, which indicates that the subject is required to execute the predicate.
    You should brush your teeth every day.
  2. The subject of the sentence is likely to execute the sentence predicate.
    Contrast with stronger auxiliary verb must, which indicates that the subject certainly will execute the predicate.
    You should be warm enough with that coat.
  3. If; in case of.
    Should you need extra blankets, you'll find them in the closet.

Usage notes

  • See the usage notes at shall.



Related terms


The speaker intends for the subject to execute the sentence predicate
The subject of the sentence is likely to execute the sentence predicate
If; in case of
  • Danish: skulle
  • Finnish: sattua (+ active 3rd infinitive in illative) in conditional mood, in a jos clause
  • Spanish: si
Translations to be checked

Extensive Definition

A modal verb (also modal, modal auxiliary verb, modal auxiliary) is a type of auxiliary verb that is used to indicate modality. The use of auxiliary verbs to express modality is characteristic of Germanic languages.


Modal verbs give additional information about the mood of the main verb that follows it. In other words, they help to incorporate or add the level of necessity: (must = obligation, requirement, no choice); (should = recommendation); (can/could = it is possible); and (may/might = option, choice).
Most modal verbs have two distinct interpretations, epistemic (expressing how certain the factual status of the embedded proposition is) and deontic (involving notions of permission and obligation). The following sentences illustrate the two uses of must:
  • epistemic: You must be starving. (= "It is necessarily the case that you are starving.")
  • deontic: You must leave now. (= "You are required to leave now.")
  • ambiguous: You must speak Spanish.
    • epistemic = "It is surely the case that you speak Spanish (e.g., after having lived in Spain for 10 years)."
    • deontic = "It is a requirement that you speak Spanish (e.g., if you want to get a job in Spain)."
Epistemic modals can be analyzed as raising verbs, while deontic modals can be analyzed as control verbs.


This table lists some modal verbs with common roots in English, German and Dutch. English modal auxiliary verb provides an exhaustive list of modal verbs in English.
The words in this list are not translations of each other! Words in the same row share the same etymological root. But, because of semantic drift, words in the same row may no longer be proper translations of each other. For instance, the German verb "dürfen" is closer in meaning to the English verb "may" than to its cognate "dare".
For German and Dutch, both the plural and singular form of the verb are shown. In English, the plural and singular form are identical.
The English could is the past tense of can, should is the past tense of shall and might is the past tense of may. These verbs have acquired an independent, present tense meaning. The German form möchten is sometimes taught as a vocabulary word and included in the list of modal verbs, but it is actually the past subjunctive form of mögen. The English verbs dare and need have both a modal use (he dare not do it), and a non-modal use (he doesn't dare to do it). The Dutch verb durven is not included in the list because its modal use has disappeared, but it has a non-modal use analogous with the English dare.


Germanic modal verbs are preterite-present verbs, which means that their present tense has the form of a vocalic preterite. This is the source of the vowel alternation between singular and plural in German and Dutch. Because of their preterite origins, modal verbs also lack the suffix (-s in modern English, -t in German and Dutch) that would normally mark the third person singular form:
The main verb that is modified by the modal verb is in the infinitive form and is not preceded by the word to (German: zu, Dutch: te). There are verbs that may seem somewhat similar in meaning to modal verbs (e.g. like, want), but the construction with such verbs would be different:
In English, main verbs require the auxiliary verb do to form negations or questions. Modal verbs never use this auxiliary do:
Modal verbs are called defective verbs because of their incomplete conjugation: they have a narrower range of functions than ordinary verbs.


External links

should in Danish: Mådesudsagnsord
should in German: Modalverb
should in French: Verbe modal
should in Dutch: Modaal werkwoord
should in Norwegian Nynorsk: Modale hjelpeverb
should in Polish: Czasownik modalny

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

be expedient, be forced, be in for, be necessary, be obliged, cannot do otherwise, cannot help but, had best, had better, have got to, have need to, have to, must, need, need to, needs must, ought, ought to
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