Special Rules for Should and Would

Special Rules for Should and Would :

Except in certain kinds of subordinate clauses, the distinction between should and would is practically the same as that between shall and will.

When the auxiliary verb expresses futurity without any idea of wishing, consenting or the like, the forms are as follows.

Assertions (Declarative)


1. I should fall. 1. We should fall.
2. Thou wouldst fall. 2. You would fall.
3. He would fall. 3. They would fall.

Questions (Interrogative)


1. Should I fall? 1. Should we fall?
2. Shouldst thou fall? 2. Should you fall?
3. Would he fall? 3. Would they fall?

Common errors are the use of I would for I should in assertions, and that of Would I? and Would you? for Should I? and Should you? in questions.

The correct forms are shown in the following sentences.

A. I SHOULD (we should) and I WOULD (we would) in assertions.

1. I should break my neck if I fell.
2. I should hesitate to try this experiment.
3. I shouldn’t wonder if he escaped.
4. We should regret any misunderstanding.
5. I should wish to examine the plans again before deciding.
6. I should be glad to accept any fair offer.
7. I would give five dollars for a ticket.
8. I would help you if I could.
9. I would never agree to such a proposition.
10. We would rather die than surrender.
11. We would pay our bill to-day if we had the money.
12. I would gladly accept any fair offer.

In the first six examples, I (or we) should is correct, because the auxiliary gives no suggestion of the speaker’s will (or volition). In the last six, on the contrary, the speaker’s willingness or desire is plainly expressed by the auxiliary, and I (or we) would is therefore used.

Note : In such sentences as the fifth…..I should wish to examine the plans again before deciding……wish expresses volition. Hence…..I would wish…..is incorrect, for it expresses volition twice and can mean only……I desire to wish. On the same principle we say……I should prefer….. and I should be glad. etc.

Sometimes either I would or I should may be used, but with a difference in meaning. Thus, in the eighth example……I should help you might be substituted for I would help you.

This change, however, makes the remark sound less cordial and sympathetic…..for I should (unlike I would) gives no hint of the speaker’s desire to be of service.

B. SHOULD I (or we)? in questions.
1. Should I break my neck if I fell?
2. Should I be poisoned if I ate those berries?
3. Should I take cold without my overcoat?
4. Should I disturb you if I were to practise my music lesson?
5. Should we run aground if we missed the channel?
Note : Would I? is confined, for the most part, to questions in which one repeats the words or thought of another. Thus,—“You would give five dollars for a ticket." “Would I? No, I wouldn’t!" In this use it is chiefly colloquial.

III. SHOULD YOU? and WOULD YOU? in questions. EXAMPLES 1. Should you drown if the boat were to capsize? [Yes, I should drown, for I do not know how to swim.]

2. Should you despair if this plan were a failure? [No, I should not, for I have other resources.]

3. Should you think that ten yards of velvet would be enough? [Yes, I should think so.]

4. Should you be offended if I were to speak frankly? [No, I should not be offended.]

5. Should you wish to examine the plans again before deciding? [Yes, I should (see note under I, above).]

6. Would you wear a hat or a cap? [I would wear a cap if I were you.]

7. Would you study Greek if you were in my place? [Yes, I would.]

8. Would you accept my apology if it were offered? [Certainly, I would accept it gladly.]

9. Would you be so kind as to lend me your compasses? [Certainly I would lend them, if I had not lost them.]

10. Would you allow me to use your name as a reference? [I would.]

The choice between SHOULD and WOULD in these sentences corresponds to the form expected in the answer.

The chief occasions on which WOULD YOU? is correct are

(1) in asking advice in a matter of doubt

(2) in asking consent or permission

EXAMPLES 6 and 7 above, the speaker asks advice. In EXAMPLES 8, 9, and 10, he asks consent or permission.

Note that the proper forms are….. I should like, Should I like? and Should you like?

1. I should like to read that book.

2. Should I like to go to Rome? Indeed, I should.

3. Should you like to receive a copy of our catalogue? [I should like to receive one.]

Note : Would is very common in these phrases, even among writers of repute, but it is still contrary to the best usage. The reason for should is the same as in I should wish (§ 298, I, note).

I’d and we’d are contractions of I WOULD and WE WOULD. Hence they can never stand for I SHOULD and WE SHOULD.

SHOULD in the second and third persons may be used in simple declarative sentences and independent clauses to express the will of the speaker.

1. If I had my way, you should be prosecuted. [That is: I would take care that you were prosecuted.]

2. If I had the money, you should be paid immediately. [Compare: You shall be paid.]

3. If I were you, she should not regret her generosity. [Compare: She shall not regret it.]

Special Rules for Should and Would :

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