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Posted by Smokey Stover on January 03, 2004

In Reply to: Should posted by R. Berg on January 03, 2004

: : In listing the definitions of "should", the online dictionaries fail to mention that it can be used as a conjunction (specifically a subordinating conjunction). For example, consider the following sentence:
: : "Should time permit, the audience will be invited to ask questions."

: : One can substitute "If time permits" for "Should time permit" without changing the meaning. "If", when used in this context, is a subordinating conjunction. Wouldn't that make "Should" a subordinating conjunction too?

: : Is this a rare oversight by the dictionary publishers, or is this use of "Should" somehow grammatically incorrect?

: The use is correct. Print dictionaries tend to be more complete than online ones. The American Heritage Dictionary (print ed., 1969) introduces "should" by saying "Past tense of 'shall,' but more often used as an auxiliary verb expressing degrees of the present and future and for various shades of attendant meaning...." But it doesn't have an example parallel to yours; its closest is "If he should fall, then so would I."

: The OED treats uses of "should" in hypothetical statements within its long entry for "shall," which it labels a verb. The OED entry gives no basis for considering this kind of "should" anything but a verb.

I wish I could offer a knowledgable explanation of the subjunctive mood, and its sometime partnership with the conditional tenses. But I can't, so keep looking. However, generally a subjunctive clause with a change in normal word order can easily do without "if" or any other explicit conjunction. "Were I to fail, so would he." "Should he agree, then so shall I." "Had I but known I'd a brought something to eat." The OED is not a great place to look for discussion of grammar, but neither is the EB Online, generally speaking, although grammar is more germane to the EB than to the OED. SS