What does 'should' mean in this example?



Chain restaurants in Toronto should have calorie and sodium (salt) counts on their menus, according to the city’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown.

According to a news release from the City of Toronto’s public health department, nearly half (46 per cent) of adults in the city are overweight. Nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) of adults in Toronto have high blood pressure.

McKeown wants that to change.

In the news release he said that, “diners underestimate the calories and sodium in their restaurant meals.”
Having the calorie and sodium figures right on the menu will help people make healthier choices when they order their food.

Many restaurants make nutritional information available, but it’s on a website or a brochure rather than right beside the food choices on the menu. That means people would have to look it up or ask for it from the server. When the information is listed right beside the menu items, people are more likely to consider it and use it to make better choices.

It also lets diners compare the menu items more easily. Toronto Public Health will ask the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to develop a law that requires chain restaurants to put the calorie and salt counts on their menus. The change would apply to restaurants that have 10 or more locations in Canada, or make more than $10-million a year.

They will be presenting their recommendations at a Board of Health meeting on April 29.

** (http://teachingkidsnews.com/)

Does the first line’s ‘should’ mean ‘should~in the future,’ corresponding to the last part: “will ask ... will be presenting”?


Posted 2013-04-27T01:21:38.077

Reputation: 25 811



The should in the first sentence is a "deontic" modal, signifying that Dr. McKeown regards posting calorie and sodium counts on menus as an obligation or duty. "Ought to" would carry the same sense.

The sentence is cast in the present tense; the 'past' form of shall is used when, as here, an obligation is only moral (this may be analogous to the use of past forms in hypothetical constructions). However, Dr. McKeown and Toronto Public Health want to transform it into a legal obligation. If they succeed it is not unlikely that the resulting regulation will employ the 'present' form: something like "[Restaurants] shall display the calorie and sodium content of each dish upon their menus in type of not less than XXX points in size."

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2013-04-27T01:21:38.077

Reputation: 176 469

1I worked hard to find a definition of should for this case that didn't make use of ought. Because I think if someone doesn't understand what should means they probably won't understand ought either. – Jim – 2013-04-27T03:46:51.527

@Jim I think you are in many cases right. But should has a much greater range of uses than ought, and that can be confusing even for a learner who knows ought - does it mean ought here, or something else? – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-04-27T11:55:15.320


McKeown is expressing his belief that restaurants have an obligation to provide the information.

should : used in auxiliary function to express obligation


Posted 2013-04-27T01:21:38.077

Reputation: 8 476