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When to Use SHOULD, When to Use MUST

Should and must are modal verbs.

We use should when we want to give advice or warn against something.  Such as, “You should buy organic food.”

Notice that the modal comes just before the base form of the verb.  When we use the negative form to express warning, the adverb “not” comes between the modal and the verb.  Such as, “You should not use your cellphone while driving.”

Examples of should as advice:

  • You should help people who are in need.
  • Students should read everyday to improve their reading skills.
  • She should go to the gym this Sunday and get some exercise.

Examples of should not as warning:

  • You should not stay up too late at night.
  • We should not miss class.
  • You should not ride your bicycle on the sidewalk.

Must is a stronger word than should.  Therefore, we use it express necessity, or something that is absolute.  Let’s look at our examples again, but this time, let us use must instead of should.

Examples of must as necessity:

  • You must help people who are in need.
  • Students must read everyday to improve their reading skills.
  • She must go to the gym this Sunday and get some exercise.

Examples of must not as necessity:

  • You must not stay up too late at night.
  • We must not miss class.
  • You must not ride your bicycle on the sidewalk.

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