- simple past tense of shall.
- (used to express condition): Were he to arrive, I should be pleased.
- must; ought (used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency): You should not do that.
- would (used to make a statement less direct or blunt): I should think you would apologize.
Origin of should
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Because the main function of should in modern American English is to express duty, necessity, etc. ( You should get your flu shot before winter comes ), its use for other purposes, as to form a subjunctive, can produce ambiguity, at least initially: I should get my flu shot if I were you. Furthermore, should seems an affectation to many Americans when used in certain constructions quite common in British English: Had I been informed, I should (American would ) have called immediately. I should (American would ) really prefer a different arrangement. As with shall and will, most educated native speakers of American English do not follow the textbook rule in making a choice between should and would. See also shall.
- plan to, intend to, or expect to: I shall go later.
- will have to, is determined to, or definitely will: You shall do it. He shall do it.
- (in laws, directives, etc.) must; is or are obliged to: The meetings of the council shall be public.
- (used interrogatively in questions, often in invitations): Shall we go?
Origin of shall
- the past tense of shall : used as an auxiliary verb to indicate that an action is considered by the speaker to be obligatory (you should go) or to form the subjunctive mood with I or we (I should like to see you; if I should be late, go without me)See also shall
- (esp with I or we as subject) used as an auxiliary to make the future tensewe shall see you tomorrow Compare will 1 (def. 1)
- (with you, he, she, it, they, or a noun as subject)
- used as an auxiliary to indicate determination on the part of the speaker, as in issuing a threatyou shall pay for this!
- used as an auxiliary to indicate compulsion, now esp in official documentsthe Tenant shall return the keys to the Landlord
- used as an auxiliary to indicate certainty or inevitabilityour day shall come
- (with any noun or pronoun as subject, esp in conditional clauses or clauses expressing doubt) used as an auxiliary to indicate nonspecific futurityI don't think I shall ever see her again; he doubts whether he shall be in tomorrow
Word Origin and History for should
c.1200, from Old English sceolde, past tense of sceal (see shall). Preserves the original notion of "obligation" that has all but dropped from shall.
Old English sceal, Northumbrian scule "I owe/he owes, will have to, ought to, must" (infinitive sculan, past tense sceolde), a common Germanic preterite-present verb (along with can, may, will), from Proto-Germanic *skal- (cf. Old Saxon sculan, Old Frisian skil, Old Norse and Swedish skola, Middle Dutch sullen, Old High German solan, German sollen, Gothic skulan "to owe, be under obligation;" related via past tense form to Old English scyld "guilt," German Schuld "guilt, debt;" also Old Norse Skuld, name of one of the Norns), from PIE root *skel- (2) "to be under an obligation."
Ground sense of the Germanic word probably is "I owe," hence "I ought." The sense shifted in Middle English from a notion of "obligation" to include "futurity." Its past tense form has become should (q.v.). Cognates outside Germanic are Lithuanian skeleti "to be guilty," skilti "to get into debt;" Old Prussian skallisnan "duty," skellants "guilty."