it seemed a fine stroke to him that his lad <should> step into the whole property

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thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
“His son, you see, had grown up, and so had my girl, and as I was known to be in weak health, it seemed a fine stroke to him that his lad should step into the whole property.”

Sherlock Holmes Illustrated and Complete
Doyle, Arthur Conan

Context: “He” wanted his son to marry the speaker’s daughter so that the son could have a share of the speaker’s property.

Hi. Is the bold word putative should, which suggests surprise on the part of the speaker? If not, how should I understand the “should” here?
Thank you.
 
  • london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It doesn't denote surprise. Remember that in old-fashioned English 'should' was used slightly differently (there are threads about this use of 'should'. I have to admit I still use it this way sometimes, just as I still use 'shall' sometimes, but many don't).

    The speaker is simply commenting that the father viewed the marriage of his son to the speaker's daughter favourably.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, lc. Then how can I understand this “should” correctly? Does the word “stroke” requires “should” to follow it?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    'Stroke' has nothing to do with it. It means 'stroke of luck', a good thing.

    As for 'shall', as I said there are already threads about it. Here it's used in its older sense. From the WRF Dictionary:

    USAGE
    Should has, as its most common meaning in modern English, the sense ought as in I should go to the graduation, but I don't see how I can. However, the older sense of the subjunctive of shall is often used with I or we to indicate a more polite form than would: I should like to go, but I can't. In much speech and writing, should has been replaced by would in contexts of this kind, but it remains in formal English when a conditional subjunctive is used: should he choose to remain, he would be granted asylum .
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    As for 'shall', as I said there are already threads about it. Here it's used in its older sense. From the WRF Dictionary:
    Thank you again. Could you please give me some links of the related threads? I searched them with the keys word “shall/should”, but the hits don’t seem to address my question.
     
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