Can one use "should have" to say that something is expected, or might be expected, or must be done, but, in fact, will not/ has not happen? For example,

  1. I should have gone to school, but I'd rather go to the cinema.
  2. He should have felt remorse, but instead he is happy.

1 Answer 1


"should have", "could have", "would have" are past-tense versions of "should", "could", "would".

So if a thing is expected (should), possible (could), or intended/consequential (would) in the present, then you should use the present forms (should, could, would):

  • I could go to school right now, but I would rather go the cupcake store.
  • I should feel sick after eating 1000 cupcakes, but I actually feel great.

If that expectation/possibility/intention happened in the past, you should use the past-tense versions (should have, could have, would have) to describe it:

  • I could have gone to school last week, but I went to the cupcake store instead.
  • I should have felt bad after eating 993 cupcakes, but instead I felt excited.

I hope that helps! I am a native english speaker (but I am not a linguist), so those with more technical knowledge may be able to explain this more precisely.

  • Thank you. So, both my examples are grammatically incorrect?
    – Serguei
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 9:53
  • @Serguei Yes. Both of your examples are mixing past and present tenses (also, it should be "go to the cinema", not "go to cinema"). Fixing those issues will result in correct sentences. Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 10:00

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