auxiliary verb
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.

Middle English sholde, Old English sc(e)olde; see shall

could, should, would (see usage note at the current entry).

3. See must1.

Rules similar to those for choosing between shall and will have long been advanced for should and would, but again the rules have had little effect on usage. In most constructions, would is the auxiliary chosen regardless of the person of the subject: If our allies would support the move, we would abandon any claim to sovereignty. You would be surprised at the complexity of the directions.
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. Unabridged


[shal; unstressed shuhl]
auxiliary verb, present singular 1st person shall, 2nd shall or (Archaic) shalt, 3rd shall, present plural shall; past singular 1st person should, 2nd should or (Archaic) shouldst or shouldest, 3rd should, past plural should; imperative, infinitive, and participles lacking.
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?

before 900; Middle English shal, Old English sceal; cognate with Old Saxon skal, Old High German scal, Old Norse skal; compare German soll, Dutch zal

can, may, shall, will (see usage note at can)(see usage note at the current entry)(see synonym study at will).

The traditional rule of usage guides dates from the 17th century and says that to denote future time shall is used in the first person (I shall leave. We shall go) and will in all other persons (You will be there, won't you? He will drive us to the airport. They will not be at the meeting). The rule continues that to express determination, will is used in the first person (We will win the battle) and shall in the other two persons (You shall not bully us. They shall not pass). Whether this rule was ever widely observed is doubtful. Today, will is used overwhelmingly in all three persons and in all types of speech and writing both for the simple future and to express determination. Shall has some use in all persons, chiefly in formal writing or speaking, to express determination: I shall return. We shall overcome. Shall also occurs in the language of laws and directives: All visitors shall observe posted regulations. Most educated native users of American English do not follow the textbook rule in making a choice between shall and will. See also should. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
shall (ʃæl, (unstressed) ʃəl)
vb (takes an infinitive without to or an implied infinitive) (esp with I or we as subject) (with you, he, she, it, they, or a noun as subject) , past should
1.  Compare will used as an auxiliary to make the future tense: we shall see you tomorrow
2.  a.  used as an auxiliary to indicate determination on the part of the speaker, as in issuing a threat: you shall pay for this!
 b.  used as an auxiliary to indicate compulsion, now esp in official documents: the Tenant shall return the keys to the Landlord
 c.  used as an auxiliary to indicate certainty or inevitability: our day shall come
3.  (with any noun or pronoun as subject, esp in conditional clauses or clauses expressing doubt) used as an auxiliary to indicate nonspecific futurity: I don't think I shall ever see her again; he doubts whether he shall be in tomorrow
usage  The usual rule given for the use of shall and will is that where the meaning is one of simple futurity, shall is used for the first person of the verb and will for the second and third: I shall go tomorrow; they will be there now. Where the meaning involves command, obligation, or determination, the positions are reversed: it shall be done; I will definitely go. However, shall has come to be largely neglected in favour of will, which has become the commonest form of the future in all three persons

should (ʃʊd)
See also 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)
usage  Should has, as its most common meaning in modern English, the sense ought as in I should go to the graduation, but I don't see how I can. However, the older sense of the subjunctive of shall is often used with I or we to indicate a more polite form than would: I should like to go, but I can't. In much speech and writing, should has been replaced by would in contexts of this kind, but it remains in formal English when a conditional subjunctive is used: should he choose to remain, he would be granted asylum

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. sceal "I owe/he owes, will have to, ought to, must" (infinitive sculan, pt. sceolde), a common Gmc. preterite-present verb, from P.Gmc. *skal-, *skul- (cf. O.S. sculan, O.N., Swed. skola, M.Du. sullen, O.H.G. solan, Ger. sollen, Goth. skulan "to owe, be under obligation;" related via past tense
form to O.E. scyld "guilt," Ger. Schuld "guilt, debt;" also O.N. Skuld, name of one of the Norns). Ground sense probably is "I owe," hence "I ought." The sense shifted in M.E. from a notion of "obligation" to include "futurity." Its past tense form has become should (q.v.). Cognates outside Gmc. are Lith. skeleti "to be guilty," skilti "to get into debt;" O.Prus. skallisnan "duty," skellants "guilty."

c.1200, from O.E. sceolde, past tense of sceal (see shall). Preserves the original notion of "obligation" that has all but dropped from shall.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idiom beginning with should, also see (should) get one's head examined.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
People who have allergies to dust mites should take some steps to protect
These should be relevant to the motion, the speakers' statements or the
  observations of featured guests.
Boat schedules peak in spring and summer, but you should be able to book a trip
  in any month.
The system should be installed after the lawn area has been graded.
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