I was watching a movie called LEGEND by Tom Hardy. It's around 29:07 in the movie when a man was walking into an office and a female voice-over said

"Ruling London involved intelligence and intimidation.The trick was to cultivate a quiet certainty that should it be needed, violence was on offer and would be happily applied"

Why use "should it be needed" but not "it should be needed" here? What's the meaning of "quiet certainty"? I've done googling and couldn't find any help. Can someone please tell me the exact meaning of this movie line?

  • 2
    'should it be needed' could have commas on both ends. That should make clear that it means 'if needed'. 'quiet certainty' perhaps unspoken but obvious fact/threat.
    – Keep these mind
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 19:46
  • 5
    The "it" in "should it be needed" refers to "violence," and the construction "should it be needed" is equivalent to "if it were needed."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 19:50
  • Quiet certainly is elegance and power: the confidence to be understated but to guarantee that you can get the job done. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:28
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    I think "quiet certainty" means that you never have to state it outwardly, but most everyone knows that it exists by implication from other actions (the intelligence and intimidation mentioned in the previous sentence).
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:34
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of What's the meaning of "should we be interested"?
    – Drew
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:53

2 Answers 2


What a sophisticated movie line!

This whole paragraph is about ruling London. To rule London in this movie one needs to be intelligent, but also know when to use intimidation. So, the ruler of London is not going to go around being violent and intimidating all of the time.

"The trick was" (the secret to ruling London) "to cultivate" (to create, grow, make) "a quiet certainty" (everyone knows, but is not going to say anything) "that should it be needed, violence was on offer and would be happily applied" (that if anyone acts up, if they cause problems for the ruler, then that ruler is going to be violent with them; perhaps torture or kill them, and the ruler is going to like hurting them).

Also, as for "should it be needed" versus "it should be needed," they are both talking about violence (the "it" in the phrase). But, "should it be needed" means "if violence is needed, then ..." Violence may happen. But it may not. However, the other phrase "it should be needed" is very certain "violence should be needed" - violence will happen 100%.


It's an inversion wherein "should" replaces the subjunctive: "Should it be needed" is the same as "if it should be needed" or "if it be needed" or "if need be".

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