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I was wondering if someone could explain the subtle difference between these sentences:

1) Monday should be fine.

2) Monday would be fine.

This is in the context of someone asking if they could help me out on Monday instead of on Sunday. I am a little confused about the difference between the usage of 'should' and 'would' here. Both seem to fit. I personally seem to prefer 'should' but I can't explain why. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks.

  • 1
    should indicates that according to the information you have now - Monday will be fine (but only if you're knowledge about the future is correct). would indicates that Monday will be/is fine. – Araucaria Oct 30 '14 at 22:42
  • Thanks. Yes, I see what you're saying. Is there a good reference (example or explanation) for this? I can't get people to agree on whether 'should' or 'would' conveys doubt. – Salmonstrikes Oct 30 '14 at 23:23
  • Based on the responses, I think there are the usual ways to go about solving this: 1) Seeing examples of historical usage 2) Seeing examples of current usage 3) Cite the grammar book. I think this use of 'should' in this case is a little informal and doesn't correspond to the usual 'conditional obligation'. So 1 and 2 should be the way to go. I'll see if I can dig up something. – Salmonstrikes Nov 2 '14 at 1:55
  • (Also, I can't up-vote since I don't have enough rep yet :-/) – Salmonstrikes Nov 2 '14 at 1:58
  • I think you can upvote, but only on your own questions! At least, I think so :) – Araucaria Nov 2 '14 at 16:26
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1) Monday should be fine.

2) Monday would be fine.

Should in sentence 1 is not the same use of should that we find in examples such as:

  • What should I do?
  • You should apologise.
  • You should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

The sentences above are asking for advice or giving advice. We can think of advice here like a form of weak obligation. If someone gives us advice, there is some pressure on us to do that thing - but we don't have to do it - it is our decision. This kind of meaning, when we talk about obligation and permission, is called DEONTIC modality.

Sentence 1 is NOT about deontic modality. This type of should is about EPISTEMIC modality. Epistemic modality is about knowledge and belief. Think about the following sentences:

  • It might be in box 3.
  • It should be in box 3.
  • It must be in box 3.

The first example above shows that the speaker has a weak belief that it is in box 3. The second sentence shows that the speaker has a fairly strong belief that it is box 3, but she's not certain. The last example shows that the speaker is certain that it is in box 3.

In the Original Poster's example, (1) indicates that the speaker has a strong conviction, a strong belief, that Monday will be fine. Of course this is the technical meaning of what they are saying. The effect of saying this sentence is probably "Yes, choose Monday".

Would in sentence (2) indicates a logical result of choosing Monday. The sentence is like the last part of a conditional:

  • If you chose Monday, Monday would be fine.

Here the speaker is definite about the fact that the result of choosing Monday is it's being fine. They aren't indicating any doubt about it. Again the effect in the conversation is probably "Yes, choose Monday".

Hope this is helpful!

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Monday should be fine = the other persons prefers Monday, or agrees Monday is a good change. Monday would be fine = Monday also fits her/his interest, though Sunday may still be a possibility.

  • Thanks for your responses lnjuanj and Araucaria. I think that the crux of the matter here, based on the responses, is that one of the words conveys doubt and the other certainty. I don't see a consensus, though. Does anyone have a reference? – Salmonstrikes Oct 30 '14 at 23:09
  • This just comes from the usage of modal verbs. Should states conditional obligation, while would states possibility. – lnjuanj Oct 31 '14 at 8:08
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While both the sentences are grammatically fine, the subtlety lies in would and should. As compared to 'would', 'should' is firmer. Think of an example I would do it and I should do it.

Having said that, if you tell Monday should be fine, it gives a little flair of ordering someone as in The work should be done on Monday. On the other hand, Monday would be fine shows probability or in better words a 'mutually understood' day which I think is your intention.

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