English Grammar


"Should probably"

Hi,


"Icarus has been feeling really sick. He should probably go to the doctor."


We had this sentence (fill in the blanck with would or should) in our test today, and I had it wrong. I have been mistaken by the word "probably". How is it possible that somebody should "probably" see a doctor? If somebody "should" do something, he should. I would rather say "He would probably see a doctor". Could you please help my understanding?

7 comments

  • 'He would probably see a doctor' is in the conditional. (Il verrait un médecin.)
    In a main sentence cut of any context inducing a conditional, it turns: He will probably see a doctor.
    But should introduces conditions (Fr. = circonstances) of necessity.
    'Should probably' introduces the probability of the necessity.


    To my mind a duty or necessity can quite be subjected to conditions of probability.
    Horatio should probably see a doctor.
    Isn't it synonym of 'Horatio had probably better see a doctor'? Il devrait probablement voir un docteur.)


    'Should' in itself may bring a probability as in (taken from my dico):
    That should be Polly at the door now.
    She should win the race.
    She should have got there by now, I expect.
    I think we should stop calling it syndication.


    In the same way enhancing the probability:
    I think we should probably stop calling it syndication.
    She should probably have got there by now.
    She should probably win the race.
    That should probably be Polly at the door now.


    With 'would' the conditions of necessity are removed.
    CW
  • I don't want to turn down Sandy's explanantions. Because it's what I expect to hear, I'd prefer "Icarus has been feeling really sick. He should probably go to the doctor."


    However I'd like to save Hortence's honour by telling that "would" also expresses hypothesis; or probability, likelihood.
    So,
    If I were Icarus, I would (probably) go to the doctor. (Isn't it correct?) Icarus has been sick. He would probably go to the doctor. (Perhaps less idiomatic than "should probably")


    Suppose Icarus be a man of strong will - what obviously he is not - he would (from will, willingness) probably go to the doctor. But mind you, in the flowing speech after the previous sentence: Icarus has been feeling really sick. He will probably go to the doctor.


    All that said, I prefer "he should probably go".


    If there are grammarians out there, they should come and help. [CW]
  • Dear Hortence,


    if I understand you well, it was that "probably" which caused you to choose rather would than should.
    In German it's quite natural to say "he should probably go to the doctor" (a quasi word-for-word translation of that expression: Er sollte vielleicht mal zum Arzt gehen), a very polite advice for somebody who hasn't still got an idea what to do in that case; with some slight misgivings or doubts wether perhaps he could still wait some days or try out some light drugs before.
  • Thank you all. I'll try not to forget it.
  • Dear you, Hortence the Canadian,


    As I wasn't up to par to definitely fix your interesting question, I asked an English acquaintance of mine to set the issue.
    I had submitted 4 statements:
    1. My wife has been feeling sick lately. She should go to the doctor.
    2. My wife has been feeling sick lately. She should probably go to the doctor.
    3. My wife has been feeling sick lately. She would go to the doctor.
    4. My wife has been feeling sick lately. She would probably go to the doctor.


    Here is his answer I got by e-mail:


    Both one and two are correct. My interpretation of the two of them is as follows but I stress it is only my personal opinion and it is not definitive.
    Statement 1 almost says the same thing as 2: sentence 1 implies that she has to make the decision whether to go or not, but it would be advisable to go.
    2. She should probably go to the doctor implies that it is advisable to go to the doctor's but not essential.
    Both 3 and 4 are not correct as such.
    They would be with a conditional clause.
    3. My wife has been feeling sick lately. She would go to the doctor if she had time.
    4. ... she would probably go if she had time.
  • As am German like Raimund, I can confirm his explanation. In German, we have the same use of "probably" in combination with "should".


    With "should probably", it's more polite and less direct to tell somebody that he/she "should" do something from our point of view. If we don't want to urge him to do something and leave the choice to him, we say "You should probably...". That emphasizes that we just want to give him/her a tentative proposal.


    "You should..." is more like a urging advice than "You should probably...".
  • Thanks!

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