How to use the modal verb SHOULD in English | DailyStep English

How to use the modal verb SHOULD in English

Here is Audio Word Study #017 from Jane Lawson at


Should (modal verb) Part 1


In English grammar, ‘should’ is a modal verb, or modal. Modals give a special meaning to a verb, and they are always followed by the ‘bare infinitive’ form of the verb, in other words, the infinitive without ‘to’. So, for example, it is wrong to say ‘I should to learn English’, and it is correct to say ‘I should learn English.’ I’ll tell you more about infinitives in a future audio blog.


‘Should’ has 9 meanings, so this week I am going teach you the first 5. It is not a good idea to try to learn 9 meanings all at the same time!


Note: ‘Should’ has a strange spelling, but a simple pronunciation. It rhymes with ‘good’.

Meaning 1: We use ‘should’ when we want to say or ask what is the correct or best thing to do.
Examples: You should drive more slowly in this freezing weather.
“Do you think I should invite them to my party?” “Yes, I think you should.”
This television never works as it should. Look at the picture – it’s terrible! (note: in this sentence ‘as it should’ means ‘in the way that it was designed to work’.)
I should have apologised to him after I was so rude. I’ll call him later to say sorry.
The baby is hungry – he should have been fed hours ago.
“Should I have closed the door after I left?” “Yes, you should.”(note: there are 2 other possible short answers here. 1. “Yes, you should have.” 2. “Yes, you should have done.” The second one is very informal.)
Meaning 2: We sometimes use ‘should’ after ‘I’ when we are giving advice. We also use ‘would’ in the same way. 
Examples: I shouldn’t be concerned. It’s not a serious problem.(note: this means ‘I advise you not to be concerned’.)
If I were you, I should study English harder! (note: we can also use ‘would’ here, but ‘should’ sounds both a little stronger and slightly more formal.) 
Meaning 3: We sometimes use ‘should’ after ‘why’ when we are asking the reason for something. 
Examples: Why should anyone want to be so cruel to an animal?
Why shouldn’t they go on holiday if they want to do so?


Meaning 4: We use ‘should’ to express expectation, or to say that something will probably happen.
Examples: My father should be here by now – he usually arrives at this time.
You should find the restaurant very easily with this map.
“Can you please finish this work by the end of the day?” “Yes, that shouldn’t be a problem.” (note: this means ‘I don’t expect that it will be a problem.’)
Meaning 5: We use ‘should’ after ‘if’, ‘in case’ in formal English when we refer to an event that is possible in the future.
Examples: If you should require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me. (note: the less formal version is ‘If you require any more information...’)
Should you need any further assistance, I would be happy to help you. (note: the less formal version is ‘If you need any more help...’)
If anyone should need to contact me, I will be reachable by mobile phone. (note: the less formal version is ‘If anyone needs to contact me...’)
She took a map in case she should get lost. (note: the less formal version is ‘ case she got lost.’)

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