unthinkable that they should/would

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Baltic Sea

Banned
Polish
Hello again!

I have a question about what "unthinkable" should be followed by: should or would?

Let's take a look at the sentence below.

Germany's concentration camp memorials have long been government-funded sites with a public duty to teach visitors about the Holocaust and, until recently, it was unthinkable that they would ask for an entrance fee.

What do you think?



 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I suppose that I'd understand them to mean the same thing, Baltic Sea, but "should" would sound odd in that sentence. As Perseas mentioned, "should" generally implies obligation of some sort, which makes it a poor substitute in the English I speak. I've picked up the idea that Britons and Americans sometimes use "should" in slightly different ways. Perhaps "should" would sound normal in BE. I'll leave it to somebody from that part of the world to comment on whether your sentence would sound OK and mean the same thing with "should".
     

    Bad_Mood

    Member
    French
    May I add my sentence to the list?

    (2) The Syrian government expressed skepticism that rebels would (a) honor a cease-fire, and Mr. Brahimi, who represents both the United Nations and the Arab League, said temporary halt to the fighting would (b) constitute only a tiny step toward resolving the conflict.

    Same question as above: would the meaning be affected if (a) and (b) were replaced by should?
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Later on in the article from Spiegel we learn that for Bergen-Belsen it is still unthinkable that they will ask for an entrance fee because they don't think it's right. The reason is that they have a duty to educate public visitors and they receive public money.

    For me the word would in the topic sentence in post #1 is the past form of will. (Because we read: But on June 1, Sachsenhausen ... began charging €1 ($1.43) per head for all members of commercially-organized tour groups.)
    The word should means ought to.
    If we substitute "will" with "ought to" then what is the reason for this obligation if they have a duty to educate public visitors?
    Therefore I think that the word would is proper in the topic sentence.

    Source: http://www.spiegel.de/international...cized-for-charging-entrance-fee-a-771149.html
     
    Last edited:

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    The Syrian government expressed skepticism that rebels would (a) honor a cease-fire, and Mr. Brahimi, who represents both the United Nations and the Arab League, said temporary halt to the fighting would (b) constitute only a tiny step toward resolving the conflict.

    Same question as above: would the meaning be affected if (a) and (b) were replaced by should?
    As previously explained, "should" suggests obligation; "should" = "ought to". It simply wouldn't make sense in either position in this sentence.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I don't agree that should would denote obligation in this context, which represents dubiousness.

    To me, "It was unthinkable that they should ask for an entrance fee" means just that the idea that they might ask for an entrance fee is repulsive, and "it was unthinkable that they would ask for an entrance fee" means that the idea that they were willing/complacent/complicit enough to ask for an entrance fee is repulsive.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I agree with Forero's second sentence, i.e. that should (ought to) means that the idea of charging an entrance fee was unthinkable. Using would means that they would be unlikely to introduce a charge. Although they seem to have changed their mind recently, I prefer should.

    In the sentence in post # I would go with would. The scepticism is about future actions.
     
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