(This question was closed in the English Language & Usage forum. I guess I should ask it here?)

I'm a English learner and I encountered a situation which I didn't know how to express in English. My colleague took on a task, and my boss (who don't know who was in charge of the task) asked me if the task had been done. I was not 100 percent sure, but to the best of my knowledge, it was very likely that it had been done. So I said "It should have been done". But then I realized that "should have been done" in English implies that the task was not finished yet. That was very different from what I wanted to say! I didn't want to imply it hadn't been done at all! I wanted to say that I felt it had been done, but I would like to add a little bit uncertainty (or maybe a little bit disclaimer as well) in case my colleague messed it up somehow unfortunately.

Hope you understand the story well. I have the problem and confusion because in my native language the literal translation of "should have been done" doesn't contain so much "not done" connotation. It is almost the same as "as far as what it should be, it is done".

Could you tell me how to express it naturally in English in this situation?

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    A common way to say this is: "I think so, but I don't know for sure." Another way is: "I think so, but I'm not 100% sure." Yet another way is to emphasize think in: "I think so." Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 21:35
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    "It may be done", "It may have been completed", "Most likely, yes", and so on. But the use of the word "should" here isn't wrong, it just leaves some room for misinterpretation, as you realized. My response would be "I dunno, prolly" ("I don't know, probably"). Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 21:54

2 Answers 2


"Should" with the perfect tense does usually imply that the action did not in fact happen, yes. But "should" with a simple verb does not always have that implication.

It should be done.

is better, and possibly clear enough in context.

But another issue here is the ambiguity between "be done" as the passive of "do," meaning someone should do the work, and "done" as a synonym for "finished" or "completed". So the sentence becomes clearer just using one of these synonyms:

It should be finished.

As noted in comments, other possibilities are "I think it's done," "I believe it's done," or "I think so, but I'm not certain."

An "I think" or "I believe" statement does somewhat imply I have some reason to conclude the work is probably finished, rather than just expecting it to be finished. The "should" examples may fit better as short for "based on what I know of my colleague's recent progress and plans, and assuming no unexpected issues have come up with the work itself or how much time my colleague has spent working, it is most likely that the work is complete by this time." This difference would not usually be important.


It's best to keep it simple. I like FeliniousRex's suggestion of "I think so." It shows that your position is mostly that it has been done, but also that you're not 100% certain. Some of the other options have potential for misunderstandings:

  • "Is X's task done?" "It should have been done" —carries a suggestion of "It ought to have been done; It's a shame that it hasn't been done."
  • "Is X's task done?" "It should be done" —suggests "It should be done by now," which means your information is old, but you're guessing based on how old it is.
  • "Is X's task done?" "I feel it is" —This usage would just be confusing here. There are many times that "I feel" would be appropriate, but it means "It's my opinion, not necessarily based on facts, but my impression. It might be wrong." It can be useful to soften statements that could offend if they're too blunt "I feel like maybe this needs some more work," but in the context you were asked for information, not opinion.

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