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I'm confused with the following sentence:

In this section, we look at how the shuffle works, as a basic understanding would be helpful, should you need to optimize a Map-Reduce program.

How do I understand the grammar and the meaning of this sentence?

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Do you mean the "should you..." part? – Alenanno Sep 12 '11 at 9:18
up vote 1 down vote accepted

If you could rephrase the "should you..." part, it would become "in case...". So it would be like in the rephrased example below.

It basically means "in the event of/that...":

In this section, we look at how the shuffle works, as a basic understanding would be helpful, in case you needed to optimize a Map-Reduce program.

See also this example taken from the NOAD:

Should anyone arrive late, admission is likely to be refused.

[In case/in the event that someone arrives late, admission is likely to be refused.]

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I’d put it even more simply: in this construction should you X is essentially the same as if you X, though to be entirely correct one ought either to make it if you should X or to transform the verb in X to the subjunctive. – Brian M. Scott Sep 12 '11 at 10:07
@Brian M. Scott: yes, I don't know why Alenanno is talking about "in the event": the inverted conditional is always (I think) equivalent to an uninverted conditional with 'if'. – Colin Fine Sep 12 '11 at 10:26
@Colin: Since that inversion refers to a "possible event or situation", I simply made that choice of words. Not to mention that "in the event of/that" is basically equivalent to saying "if" (speaking about the meaning). It's also listed in the dictionary, see in "Idioms", the 4th one. – Alenanno Sep 12 '11 at 10:46
Yes, I'm not denying it has that meaning; I just think it's an unnecessary complication. – Colin Fine Sep 12 '11 at 11:56
@Colin: Ah ok, it seemed otherwise. :) – Alenanno Sep 12 '11 at 14:26

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