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A special use of “should”?

If "should" comes at the beginning of a sentence, and the sentence is not a question, then can it be replaced with "if?" Is there any difference at all?

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Can you provide a specific example? –  Alenanno Apr 11 '11 at 11:10
    
Here's an example: "If you declare bankruptcy, your account will be closed." means roughly the same as "Should you declare bankruptcy, your account will be closed." If you should find any syntactic or semantic differences between the two, please explain by posting your answer. –  krubo Jul 4 '11 at 19:18
    
Well-spotted, Cerberus. –  John Lawler Jan 11 '12 at 23:35
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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Oct 18 '12 at 10:47

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3 Answers

You can't simply swap the words, as they are grammatically different:

If the sky is blue...
Should the sky be blue...

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Marking the subjective in the first example would also be acceptable ("If the sky be blue"), but convey a much more formal, even archaic tone. –  wnoise Apr 11 '11 at 22:56
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  • "Should I..."
  • "Were I to..."
  • "If I..."

Or

  • "Should it rain Saturday..."
  • "Were it to rain Saturday..."
  • "If it rains Saturday..."

These forms all convey the same meaning, but they are very different in style. The only form (of the above) that appears commonly is "If". The others sound formal / poetic / literary.

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But note that the verb form is different between the "if" case and the others (at least in the 3rd singular). To me "Should it rain ... " is literary, but not archaic. –  Colin Fine Apr 11 '11 at 11:12
    
@Colin edited accordingly –  trideceth12 Apr 11 '11 at 11:14
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They're different in the same sense that "Jane kicked the ball" and "The ball was kicked by Jane" are different. They mean the same thing, but the emphasis is different and often one is more appropriate than the other.

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