Difference between Should and Must | Should vs Must

Have you ever felt confused about where to use ‘should’ or ‘must’ in a sentence? Don’t worry, as it’s not just you but many who have felt this way. Since most people don’t understand when they have to use these words, they end up using them interchangeably. As a result, the entire meaning, as well as the tone of the sentence, gets changed. So how would one understand when to use these terms? The following article will help students understand when and how to use the words ‘should’ and ‘must’.

There are words in the English Language that can be used interchangeably without changing the context of the sentence, but sometimes this interchanging of words changes the entire meaning as well as the tone of the sentences. So to avoid such mistakes, one must know the meaning of the words they are using. The following points will describe the difference between the commonly used words ‘should’ and ‘must’.

Table Summarising the Difference between Should and Must




The word should is used for actions/responsibilities/duties that what one thinks is best for the concerned subject.

The word must is used for actions/responsibilities/duties that are considered compulsory/necessary.


It is used as an Auxiliary Verb.

It is used as an Auxiliary Verb.


You should have told the truth.

Amy must submit the paper by tomorrow.

The table above shows that the words ‘should’, and ‘must’ are neither synonymous nor can be used interchangeably. Students who previously got confused between these terms can now see the difference between them. The following points discussed below will help students have a clearer understanding of the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ so that they can be used correctly.

The Difference between Should and Must – Meaning

One of the simplest ways to remember when to use ‘should’ and ‘must’ is to understand the meaning of the sentence. If you want to speak about a compulsory/necessary action, then use ‘must’ in the sentence. For example, “One must obey the traffic rules to avoid accidents.” Here, ‘must’ is used to instil a strong tone in the sentence, i.e. as a command. Whereas the word ‘should’ is used when you think any action/duties/responsibilities are best for a particular situation. For example, “You should visit the doctor soon.” Here, the word ‘should’ is used as the speaker thinks it’s best for the person to visit the doctor. The moment the students understand this difference between the two words ‘should’ and ‘must’, it will be easier for them to use the words in the correct context.

Example of Should and Must

The following examples will ensure students understand the terms ‘should’ and ‘must’.

Should – Simmy should carry the umbrella at school today as it seems like it will rain. (auxiliary verb)

Must – The police must have caught the thief. (auxiliary verb)

Should and Must – Conclusion

The words ‘should’ and ‘must’ have entirely different meanings and can’t be used synonymously or interchangeably. When students are using these words, they have to understand the context’s meaning before applying them. The BYJU’S website also offers various articles on many such ‘differences between two words’ that students often get confused with and end up using incorrectly.

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