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The authors only regret that they should have come to an end. But if we have helped you master a foreign tongue with some success, our task has been worth its while.

This is the last paragaph of the epilogue of one of my english textbook. I am not able to understand why "should have come to an end" is used. I know that for example "I should have gone to bed early" means "I didn't go to bed early and now I'm tired". So my sentence means that the authors did not come to an end which is nonsense. Can you explain to me this particular usage in my sentence above.

  • should there is a modal auxiliary expressing necessity/that which circumstances require/inevitability: "We only regret that they have had to come to an end." – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 20 '17 at 17:09
  • "master a foreign tongue with some success" is odd. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 20 '17 at 18:31
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It sounds like this is the author's way of saying goodbye, however it is obviously not written by a native speaker.

You are correct that

should have come to an end

means "it is supposed to end" but has not, and its bit of nonsense the tha author would regret it not ending. Usually what is written is something like

The authors only regret is that this must come to an end.

meaning your "time" or "relationship" with the author is ending.

our task has been worth its while.

is more usually expressed as

our task (of putting this book together) would have been worth it.

I might question the effectiveness of the book.

  • If you search ngram (1700-2000) for regret that it should have,regret that they should have, regret that we should have,regret that he should have, and then click on the links at the bottom of the ngram results to reach the attestations, and then peruse those texts, you will find that this is a modal use as I've described in my comment above. It has largely fallen out of use. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 20 '17 at 21:50
  • For example: books.google.com/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 20 '17 at 21:52
  • Or this: books.google.com/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 20 '17 at 21:55
  • I don't think my answer disputes "should" is a modal auxliary. Why the down vote? – Peter May 20 '17 at 22:48
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    AS a native English speaker, I find the phrasing quite acceptable. Agreed, it is a bit old-fashioned, and a bit formal, but those are qualities appropriate to a farewell. It might be quite a nice book. – Philip Roe May 20 '17 at 23:40

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