for fear that he < should / would > fall behind others

flowersophy

Senior Member
Chinese-China
Hi,

Look at this question:
He is working hard for fear that he ____ fall behind others.
A. should B. would
The correct answer is A, isn't it?

Many thanks!
 
  • goldenband

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Both are acceptable in modern English.

    Some sources assert "should" is only for the first person (plural or singular), just as some claim that "shall" is only for the first person. But the "will/shall" rule is far from universally accepted, and most native speakers pay no attention to it, e.g.:

    If you should ever leave me... (The Beach Boys)
     

    flowersophy

    Senior Member
    Chinese-China
    Both are acceptable in modern English.

    Some sources assert "should" is only for the first person (plural or singular), just as some claim that "shall" is only for the first person. But the "will/shall" rule is far from universally accepted, and most native speakers pay no attention to it, e.g.:

    If you should ever leave me... (The Beach Boys)
    Many think that for fear that sb. should do sth. is the use of subjunctive mood.
     

    goldenband

    Senior Member
    English - American
    On reconsideration, since the example is in the present tense, I wouldn't write "would" there -- I'd write "will". So if the choice is between "should" and "would", I'd pick "should".
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Many think that for fear that sb. should do sth. is the use of subjunctive mood.
    And they are right.

    The should/shall in the first person convention is appropriate for the ordinary future and conditional. Here we have a subjunctive created by a modal auxiliary and this would naturally be should rather than would where we wanted to give a more formal feel to the expression. One could also use might.

    I agree with Goldenband that one could use either should or would here, or one might elide the auxiliary altogether - which would give an even greater feel of formality.

    Here are instances in the GB and US corpuses of the different forms.

    For fear that he should fall behind - 0 (GB) - 0 (US)
    For fear that he would fall behind - 1 (GB) - 14 (US)
    For fear that he might fall behind - 2 (GB) - 7 (US)
    For fear that he fall behind - 1 (GB) - 0 (US)

    Lest anyone think that means that the form with should isn't to be found, here are two examples from literature, one American, the other British.

    And, for fear that he should suspect how her heart was aching, she gave a particularly brilliant and joyous smile - Eleanor H. Porter » Miss Billy Married » Chapter XX. Arkwright's Eyes are Opened.
    Is there any one you want to see, or anything of that sort?' and doing it as steadily as possible for fear that he should mistake the carelessness of whisky for the distraction of fear, I got my candle alight - H.G. Wells » The Story of the Inexperienced Ghost.

    The Google Books ngrams (click) illustrate the increasing currency of would against should in this construction, in both American and British English.
     
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