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Understanding and Using Modal Verbs (#22), by Dennis Oliver


Modal Verbs #22:
Individual Modal Verbs



The English modal verbs are often challenging for learners
of English. This happens for many reasons, including both
grammar and meaning.

In this Hint, we'll see more about should.


Should #2 


The modal auxiliary should has several uses. We've just
seen that one common one is in showing
showing that something is a good idea.

Another use for should is in showing expectation--that is,
using information that is already known in order to state,
based on the information, what one
expects to happen
(or what one expects
not to happen).


A: It's nearly 1:00 PM. Are you sure the bus
is coming?
B: Yes, it should be here very soon. It's never
arrived later than 1:05.

(B doesn't really know when / if the bus will arrive, but in the
past it has arrived no later than 1:05. Because of this information,
expects that the bus will arrive no later than that time. (1:05
is B's "best guess," based on what she / he already knows.)


A: Do you think I'll do OK on the test?
B: You shouldn't have any problems with it
because you've studied really hard.

(Because B knows that A has studied really hard for the test,
he / she
expects that A won't have any problems with it and
will do well on it. (This is B's "best guess," based on the
information that B already knows.)


A: I need an oil change. When can you do it?
B: There's only one car ahead of you, and
we're almost finished with it. We
be able to get to your car in about 30 minutes.

(Because B has an idea of how much time will be needed
to finish the other car, B
expects that A's oil change can
be done in approximately 30 minutes. (The time might be
less or more than 30 minutes, but 30 minutes is B's
"best guess," based on the information that he / she has.)


A: How soon will we arrive in Los Angeles?
B: It shouldn't be much longer. Our flight.
is about four hours, and we've been in
the air around three hours and 45 minutes.

(B doesn't really know when he / she and A will arrive in
Los Angeles, but B's "best guess," based on what she / he
already knows about the length of the flight and how long
they have been traveling, is that they won't be in the air
much longer.)



Special Note:

This use of should does not show a requirement. It also doesn't
show a promise. When
should is used to show expectation, the
expectation is not something that is definitely known, but is,
instead, a conclusion or "best guess" based on that information.
Because of this, the expectation may or may not actually happen.

("I should be home by 5:30" shows when I expect to be home,
not when I will be home. "I should be home" is more definite
than "I may be home" or "I might be home," but it is still not
a promise that I will be home at 5:30.)


Next: more on modal verbs

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