Shall and Should for intermediate learners

'Shall' and 'Should' are like relatives, because 'Should' is the past tense of 'Shall', but they have different functions despite their similarities.

"Shall and Should" in English Grammar

What Is Should?

'Should' is a modal verb in English that is used to express advice, obligation, expectation, or probability.

Structure

Just like all the other modal verbs, 'should' is typically followed by the base form of the verb . Look at the following examples:

She should do her homework quickly.

They should head home soon.

'Should' is also frequently used in negative sentences and questions.
To form a negative sentence with 'should', all you have to do is add 'not' after it.
Also, to form questions with 'should', it must be moved to the beginning of the sentence, before the subject.
Pay attention to the following examples:

She should not talk like that in front me.

We shouldn't smoke in here.

Should I call you in the evening then?

Should he take a nap right now?

As you can see, the modal only comes at the beginning of the question.

'Should' can also be used in question tags. Look below:

I think they should leave immediately, shouldn't they?

Selina should run to get to her class, shouldn't she?

Uses

As it was mentioned above, 'should' is commonly used in English. Below are its main functions:

  • Giving advice or suggestion
  • Talking about expectations and predicting the future
  • Giving instructions
  • Talking about obligations and expectations in the present

Giving Advice or Suggestion

Usually, 'should' is used when someone is giving advice to someone else. Look at the examples below:

She should stop eating so much cake.

They should start watching some documentaries.

He shouldn't smoke.

We shouldn't talk to each other like that .

Predicting the Future and Talking About Expectations

We can also use 'should' to talk about events that are likely to happen in the near future or at the present moment. Additionally, we can use 'should' to indicate that someone is expected to be somewhere. Look at the following examples:

She should be here any minute now.

They should reach the ship in 30 minutes.

Giving Instructions

'Should' is also used when we want to order or instruct someone to do something. Look at the following examples:

Everybody should throw their cigarettes in this ash tray.

She should not treat me like this.

Tip!

If you want to use a more obligatory modal when instructing or ordering someone, you can use 'must' instead of 'should'. Compare the following examples:

You should study for tomorrow.

You must study for tomorrow.

Here, as you can see, there is more force in the statement.

Talking About Obligations and Expectations in the Present Moment

We can also use 'should' with a different format when obligating someone to do something or expecting an event. Here, 'should' comes with the '-ing' form of the verb. The structure is as follows:

Study the following examples carefully:

You should be doing your homework by dinner.

They should be talking to the manager right now.

Tip!

'Shall' is another modal verb used in English, but it is less common than other modals such as 'will' and 'should'. It is often used in formal contexts, particularly in British English, to express an intention or suggestion. Take a look at the examples below:

Shall we dance?

I shall not do as you say, sir.

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