Should and Would in Subordinate Clauses




Should and Would in Subordinate Clauses :


In some kinds of subordinate clauses, the use of should and would differs considerably from that in simple sentences and principal clauses.

The following classes require attention
(1) clauses of purpose or expectation
(2) conditional and concessive clauses
(3) clauses expressing volition not that of the subject
(4) clauses stating something as an idea
(5) indirect discourse

In subordinate clauses expressing the purpose or expectation with which anything is done, shall and should are used in all three persons.



In subordinate clauses expressing the purpose or expectation with which anything is done, SHALL and SHOULD are used in all three persons.

1. Charleton took great pains that {I | you | they} should understand the details of the treaty.

2. Scott {is | was} very careful that nothing {shall | should} interfere with his plans.

3. They took every precaution lest {I | you | he} should suspect the plot.

4. Anderson waited patiently until {I | you | they} should arrive with the horses.

5. We strained every nerve to reach the cave before the storm should break.



In conditional or concessive clauses expressing a future supposed case doubtfully, SHALL and SHOULD are used in all three persons; but will and would are proper when the subject is thought of as wishing or consenting.

1. What would happen if {I | you | he} should not carry out the commander’s instructions?

2. If {I | you | he} should miss the steamer, our friends would be alarmed.

3. Whoever {shall | should} violate this law {shall | should} pay the penalty. [That is: If anybody shall violate, etc.]

4. Whenever {I | you | he} shall find an opportunity, let us try the experiment. [That is: If ever I shall find, etc.]

5. He promised to assist you whenever you should need help. [Whenever = if ever.]

6. Though {we | you | they} should fail, others would make the attempt. [Concession.]

7. Though Evans should disappoint me, I should not lose confidence in him.

8. Vernon will do his part if {I | you | they} will cooperate with him.

9. If {I | you | he} will only make the effort, success is certain.

10. Edmund would reveal the secret if {I | you | they} would assist him in his search for the treasure.

11. If we would take pains, our parents would be satisfied.

12. Whoever will join us may be sure of a pleasant and profitable journey. [That is: If anyone will join us, he may be sure, etc.]

When a future supposed case is admitted or conceded as certain, will may be used in the second and third persons to denote mere futurity.

1. Though {you | he} will certainly fail, {you | he} may make the attempt.

2. Though the ship will not sink for some hours, let us take to the boats.



SHALL and SHOULD are often used in the second and third persons in subordinate clauses to express volition which is not that of the subject.

1. Templeton insists that you shall accompany him.

2. This letter directs where you shall station yourself.

3. We gave orders that the gates should be closed.

4. My wish is that {you | he} should remain at home.

5. The law prescribed when and to whom the tax should be paid.



When a clause with that states something, not as a fact but as an idea to be considered, SHOULD is the proper auxiliary in all three persons.

I am not surprised that you should find your lesson rather difficult. [That is : “When I consider the matter, I do not find the idea surprising." In “I am not surprised that you find," etc., the subordinate clause makes the statement as a fact.]

1. It is strange that Tom should neglect his swimming lessons. [Contrast : It is strange that Tom neglects.]

2. That Napoleon should have chafed at captivity is only natural. [Contrast : That Napoleon chafed.]


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