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"What is all this?" demanded another voice peremptorily; and Mrs. Reed came along the corridor, her cap flying wide, her gown rustling stormily. "Abbot and Bessie, I believe I gave orders that Jane Eyre should be left in the red-room till I came to her myself."
(Jane Eyre)

Can should be omitted, as in "The king commanded that all the people [should] be assembled at once."?

  • 1
    This question might be better if you split it into two questions – Matt Feb 12 '13 at 2:53
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    Yes, should can be omitted. It doesn't change the meaning. The sentences with and without should are equally acceptable variants: it's a question of personal preference & style. – user264 Feb 12 '13 at 2:58
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    In the U.S., you can omit should. I'm not sure about the U.K. – Peter Shor Feb 14 '13 at 20:27
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I think they are similar but not the same.

The phrase "The king commanded that all the people should be assembled at once.", while technically correct, makes it seem that the king's command was optional. Probably not.

Also in the first example, "orders" and "should" do not really convey the same intent. In context it may make sense though.

I think better phrases would be "The king commanded that all the people are to be assembled at once." and "Abbot and Bessie, I believe I gave orders that Jane Eyre is to be left in the red-room till I came to her myself."

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    In the context of a king's command, I don't think there's any suggestion of "optionality". In fact, the standard present tense form is often used to convey a "non-optional, will definitely happen" sense, as in You shall go to the ball! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 13 '13 at 18:32
  • Agreed. You could say "The king commanded that all the people shall be assembled at once." and "Abbot and Bessie, I believe I gave orders that Jane Eyre shall be left in the red-room till I came to her myself." – user485 Feb 14 '13 at 4:23
  • I doubt many would pick you up on it, but actually I don't think you can properly say that. The king himself could (just about) say "I command that the people shall kneel immediately", perhaps. But grammatically he might just as well have commanded "that the people will kneel immediately", and that doesn't sit quite right with me. I certainly don't think you can validly use even shall in an indirect reported speech context. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 14 '13 at 4:45
3

If 'should' is kept as it is, it won't make much of a difference. You can write it without 'should' too. What is the context in your phrase? If it is a 'compulsion', then you may replace 'should' with 'must'.

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I think, this is rather a relict of an old form of be in the context of intention or obligation:

World English Dictionary:

(7) (takes an infinitive) expresses intention, expectation, supposition, or obligation: the president is to arrive at 9.30; you are not to leave before I say so

The Free Dictionary:

(2b) To belong; befall: Peace be unto you. Woe is me.
(6) To remain in a certain state or situation undisturbed, untouched, or unmolested: Let the children be.

In this context, "I gave orders that Jane Eyre {was to} be left in the red-room", sounds plausible.

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