You shouldn't be so tired if you ....... to bed earlier.

1) had gone
2) went

This test was asked by one of my colleagues today. To me, #1 works. Also, I am not happy with this usage of "should". I think "You shouldn't be so tired" is not modern usage; "Would" is what's meant. 

 

What do you think? And tell me which type of conditional is this sentence? I think it's mixed.

Original Post

Hi, Freeguy,

I think "You shouldn't be so tired" is not modern usage; "Would" is what's meant. 

I see your point, but "should" can also be used to express deduction or probability.

I'll give you my point of view:

  1. You shouldn't be so tired if you went to bed earlier.
  2. You shouldn't be so tired if you had gone to bed earlier.
  3. You wouldn't be so tired if you went to bed earlier.
  4. You wouldn't be so tired if you had gone to bed earlier.


If "should" is used as the first person form of "would," then (1) is, just like (3), a type 2 conditional, which might sound like a piece of advice: Go to bed earlier and you won't feel so tired next time.

If "should" is a modal indicating probability, then I interpret "went" as a real past in (1), meaning: 1': If it is true that you went to bed earlier (than usual), then you shouldn't be so tired now (= there's no accounting for your current tiredness).

Again, if "should" is used as the first person form of "would," then (2) is, just like (4), a mixed conditional, combining an unfulfilled past condition (if you had gone to bed earlier) with a present result (you wouldn't be so tired -> the person is very tired).

I got the second point (unfulfilled action). On #1, do you mean:

  1. You shouldn't be so tired if you went to bed earlier.

 

can mean either "Go to bed earlier and you won't feel so tired next time."  or "If it is true that you went to bed earlier (than usual), then you shouldn't be so tired now."

It can mean both things, as I explained in my post, depending on how "shouldn't" is interpreted.

If "shouldn't" is synonymous with "wouldn't," then (1) implies: Go to bed earlier and you won't feel so tired next time.

If "shouldn't" means "there's no reason or justification for you to (feel so tired)," then (1) means: If it is true that you went to bed earlier (than usual), then you shouldn't be so tired now.

Beautiful analysis, Gustavo! I agree with everything you've said, and love how you've given different interpretations depending on the meaning of "should," which can be interpreted in those two ways in "You shouldn't/wouldn't be so tired if you went to bed earlier."

The reading according which "shouldn't" is similar to "wouldn't" seems to be forced in "You shouldn't be so tired if you had gone to bed earlier," because it is difficult to see how "if you had gone to bed earlier" could be interpreted as anything other than a counterfactual, at least in the absence of more context.

Freeguy, I just wanted to make sure that with the label "mixed conditional" you don't understand "bad conditional." Over the years on this forum, I have always had the sense that the mixed conditional is perceived as the ugly duckling, as a dirty little construct that native speakers use. It is perfectly correct in (1)!

Gustavo's great.

My only problem is that this usage of "should" in second conditional has not been mentioned in any grammar source. Michael Swan only uses it with "I" and "we".

 

If I knew her name, I should tell you. (Should here is the same as would.)

 

Do you know any reliable source in which this usage is discussed?

Freeguy posted:

Gustavo's great.

My only problem is that this usage of "should" in second conditional has not been mentioned in any grammar source. Michael Swan only uses it with "I" and "we". [. . .]

Do you know any reliable source in which this usage is discussed?

 Yes, Freeguy, this British use of "should," which relates to "shall" in its first-person usage in British English, is generally used only in the first person -- and it is generally not used at all in American English. The last style guide in the U.S. to have recommended it without reserve was published in the nineteen-sixties.

The British usage of "shall" and "should" allows for changes in perspective, and it is still possible to conceive of such changes in perspective. If you and I were speakers who said things like "I should like a cup of coffee" (rather than "I would like a cup of coffee"), it would be grammatically possible for me to ask:

  • Should you like a cup of coffee?

If you are interested, you can find discussions of this usage in the Fowler brothers classic, The King's English, published a century ago. There is also a description of perspectival shifts with "shall" and "should" in Wilson Follett's Modern American Usage (the style guide from the sixties I referred to above).

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