Auxiliary Verbs “Will/Would” and “Shall/Should”
The verbs will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, might, and must cannot be the main (full) verbs alone. They are used as auxiliary verbs only and always need a main verb to follow.
Used to express desire, preference, choice, or consent:
- I will take this duty.
- Will you stop talking like that?
Used to express the future:
- It will rain tomorrow.
- The news will spread soon.
Used to express capacity or capability:
- This bucket will hold two gallons of water.
- This airplane will take 200 passengers.
Used to express determination, insistence, or persistence:
- I will do it as you say.
Would (past form of will)
Often used in auxiliary functions with rather to express preference:
- I would rather go shopping today.
- We’d rather say something than stay quiet.
Used to express a wish or desire:
- I would like to have one more pencil.
Used to express contingency or possibility:
- If I were you, I would be so happy.
Used to express routine or habitual things:
- Normally, we would work until 6 p.m.
Mainly used in American English to ask questions politely (it has more usages in British English). For the future tense, will is more frequently used in American English than shall.
- Shall we dance?
- Shall I go now?
- Let’s drink, shall we?
Often used in formal settings to deliver obligation or requirement:
- You shall abide by the law.
- There shall be no trespassing on this property.
- Students shall not enter this room.
Should (past form of shall)
Often used in auxiliary functions to express an opinion, suggestion, preference, or idea:
- You should rest at home today.
- I should take a bus this time.
- He should be more thoughtful in the decision-making process.
Used to express that you wish something had happened but it didn’t or couldn’t (should + have + past participle):
- You should have seen it. It was really beautiful.
- I should have completed it earlier to meet the deadline.
- We should have visited the place on the way.
Used to ask for someone’s opinion:
- What should we do now?
- Should we continue our meeting?
- Should we go this way?
- Where should we go this summer?
Used to say something expected or correct:
- There should be an old city hall building here.
- Everybody should arrive by 6 p.m.
- We should be there this evening.