I was wondering if the "should" in if-clause is commonly used nowadays, or if it's kinda outdated. E.g.,

If you should meet him, tell him he owes me.

  • 2
    Ngram. But are you suggesting a difference in meaning between forms with "should" and forms without, or do you think the meaning is identical?
    – Stuart F
    Nov 7, 2022 at 12:25
  • Yeah, there's a difference.
    – Jon Stark
    Nov 8, 2022 at 9:49

1 Answer 1


Garner's Modern American Usage has an entry on should (p745) in which he gives various examples of how the word is used, including one use in a conditional sentence:

If Bess should call, tell her I'll be back at 4 o'clock.

I infer from his inclusion of this example that Garner does not consider the usage outdated.

Swan, in Practical English Usage (p237), states in Section 261(1) if...should :

We can suggest that something is unlikely, or not particularly probable, by using should...in the if-clause:

  • If you should run into Peter, tell him he owes me a letter.

So, while If you should meet him, tell him he owes me is not as common as If you meet him, tell him he owes me, it is not outdated. It is a useful alternative when the speaker thinks there is less likelihood that the meeting will happen.

  • Thank you a lot!
    – Jon Stark
    Nov 8, 2022 at 9:48

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