The difference between SHOULD and WOULD


What is the difference between SHOULD and WOULD? And when do we use them?

should vs would

The difference between SHOULD and WOULD

It can be quite confusing when it comes to SHOULD and WOULD. Hopefully, this explanation will be useful.


SHOULD is the past tense of ‘shall’. It is an auxiliary verb.

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1. SHOULD is used for advice or suggestion

  • My tooth has been hurting for a week already.
  • You should go to the dentist. 
  • I had a fight with my mom today. What should I do?
  • You shouldn’t spend so much time watching TV.


2. SHOULD is used for obligation.

  • You should finish your homework first.
  • He should always help his parents.


3. SHOULD is used to express what is likely

  • They should be here by noon.
  • He should be at the train station waiting for me.

Read more:
What is the difference between MUST and SHOULD?


WOULD is the past tense of ‘will’. It is an auxiliary verb.

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1. WOULD is used for making polite requests and offers

  • Would you like anything to eat?
  • Would you like to see some new pictures?
  • Would you bring me my book?


2. WOULD is used to talk about unreal or unlikely situations (conditionals)

  • If she had more time, she would spend it with her children.
  • They would make a lot of changes if they had enough money.


3. WOULD is used to talk about past habits

  • Jack would keep talking about his job.
  • When I was little, I would spend hours watching TV.


4. WOULD is used to tone down strong or controversial statements. Not recommended in formal writing.

  • I would have to say that you are being ridiculous.
  • It would seem that you are being a bit immature.


5.WOULD is used to show preference between two choices (used with rather or sooner)

  • I would rather die than go out with him.
  • I would sooner spend a day with my step dad then learn chemistry. 

NOTE: According to the rules, SHOULD (as well as ‘shall’) must be used with the 1st person pronouns I and WE; however, we see, from the examples above, that these rules have shifted.

Read more:
The Difference between USED TO and WOULD

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Julie Swallow
Julie Swallow
3 years ago

how do i switch off all the pop ups that keep appearing on my computer?????

Anastasia Koltai
Reply to  Julie Swallow
3 years ago

Hi! Glad to hear from you!

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