Introduction to “should”


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General English

Welcome to your Introduction to “Should” lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• When do we use “Should”?
When else do we use “Should”?
“Should” in the past
“Ought to”
Take the quizzes when you’re ready! If you’re having problems, use the comment box to contact our English Teachers.

When do we use “Should”?

“You should do something” means “it’s a good idea to do something”. We use “should” to give advice about something:

“You look ill, you should see a doctor.”

“If your tooth hurts you should see a dentist.”

Should we tell her about the party?”

We often use “should” with “I think / I don’t think / Do you think?”

I think that parents should raise their children better.”

I don’t think you should do that.”

Do you think we should go out tonight?”

“You shouldn’t do something” means “it’s not a good idea to do something”:

“You shouldn’t believe everything you read online.”

“Should” is not as strong as “have to” or “must”:

You should see the doctor.”
(it’s a good idea to see the doctor)

You have to see the doctor.”
(it’s imperative that you see the doctor)

When else do we use “Should”?

You use “should” when something is not right, or not how you expect:

“I wonder where James is, he should be here by now.”

“The price is wrong, it should be €10 not €15.”

We use “should” to say that we expect something to happen:

“I’ve understood the lesson perfectly, so I should pass the quizzes.”

“There are lots of things to do in town, we shouldn’t get bored.”

“Should” in the past

“You should have done something” means “you didn’t do something, and it was the wrong thing to do”:

“You should have come to the picnic, you would have loved it.”

“They should have arrived ages ago, where are they?”

“You shouldn’t have done something” means “you did something, and it was the wrong thing to do”:

“I feel sick, I shouldn’t have eaten all the cake.”

“You shouldn’t have been driving so fast, that’s why you crashed.”

Compare “should” and “should have”:

“You look tired, you should go to bed now.”

“You look tired, you should have gone to bed earlier last night.”

“Ought to”

You can use “ought to” instead of “should” in most cases:

“I think you ought to go to bed early.”

“You ought not to drive so fast, you’ll crash!”

“It was a great picnic, you ought to have come.”

“I ought not to have eaten all the cake, I feel ill.”