10 Differences Between should and must

The Difference Between Should and Must

Have you ever wondered about the subtle nuances between the words should and must? While they may seem similar, they actually have distinct meanings and implications. In this article, we will delve into the definitions, examples, and uses of both should and must. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of when to use each word appropriately.

What is/are should?

Should is a modal verb that expresses obligation, advice, or expectation. It suggests that something is the right thing to do or the better choice in a given situation. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Examples of should

  1. Advice: You should study for your exams if you want to succeed.
  2. Expectation: They should arrive at the meeting on time.
  3. Obligation: We should respect our elders.

Uses of should

Here are some common uses of should:

  • To offer advice or make suggestions.
  • To express expectations or likelihood.
  • To indicate duty or responsibility.

What is/are must?

Must is also a modal verb, but it carries a stronger sense of obligation or necessity compared to should. It implies that there is a requirement or imperative to fulfill. Let’s explore a few examples:

Examples of must

  1. Requirement: Employees must complete the training before starting their jobs.
  2. Necessity: I must go to the store and buy some groceries.
  3. Compulsion: We must always follow traffic rules for our safety.

Uses of must

Here are some common uses of must:

  • To express strong obligation or necessity.
  • To indicate a firm requirement or expectation.
  • To emphasize compulsion or essentiality.

Differences between should and must

Difference Area Should Must
Level of Obligation Suggests a desirable action but not mandatory Indicates a mandatory or essential action
Advice vs. Requirement Commonly used to offer advice or suggestions Usually used to express a requirement or necessity
Expectation Expresses expectations or likelihood Does not specifically convey expectations
Intensity Less intense than must Carries a stronger sense of obligation
Flexibility Allows room for choice or alternative actions Leaves little to no room for deviation
Suggestions Commonly used for suggestions and recommendations Not typically used for suggestions or recommendations
Certainty Does not imply absolute certainty Suggests a high degree of certainty or necessity
Importance Indicates importance but allows for flexibility Places greater emphasis on importance and necessity
Positive vs. Negative Consequences Failure to follow should may lead to suboptimal results Failure to follow must may result in severe consequences
Legal Implications Does not usually have legal implications Can have legal consequences when disregarded


In summary, should and must differ in terms of their level of obligation, advice vs. requirement, intensity, flexibility, and legal implications. While should suggests a desirable action or advice, must expresses a stronger sense of obligation or necessity. Understanding these subtle differences will allow you to use these words appropriately in various contexts.

People Also Ask

  1. Q: When should I use “should”?
  2. A: You should use “should” when you want to offer advice, make suggestions, or express expectations.

  3. Q: Can “must” be used for recommendations?
  4. A: No, “must” is not typically used for suggestions or recommendations. It implies stronger obligation.

  5. Q: Is there any flexibility with “must”?
  6. A: “Must” allows little to no room for deviation or alternative actions. It signifies a mandatory or essential action.

  7. Q: Does “should” imply a higher level of importance compared to “must”?
  8. A: While both words indicate importance, “must” places a greater emphasis on importance and necessity.

  9. Q: What are the consequences of not following “must”?
  10. A: Failure to follow “must” may result in severe consequences, including legal implications.

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