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What you should have accomplished is ...

I cannot say if this is talking about future , perfect future for instance, or it is about past tense , making guess about past events or third conditional. Very confusing.

3 Answers 3

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Depending on context it may have either future, present or past reference. It is a statement about what is or was or will be required, and is neutral with respect to factuality: with present or past reference it can be used either if the speaker does not know whether you accomplished what is called for or if the speaker knows that you in fact did or did not accomplish what is called for; with future reference, of course your actual accomplishment cannot of course be known at present.

FUTURE:

  • What you should have accomplished by this time tomorrow is what is on this list.

PRESENT:

  • What you should have accomplished by now is what is on this list—is it all finished?
  • What you should have accomplished by now is what is on this list, but in fact you haven't even done half of it.
  • What you should have accomplished by now is what is on this list, and I see that you have done so—congratulations!

PAST:

  • What you should have accomplished yesterday is what is on this list—did you finish it?
  • What you should have accomplished yesterday is what is on this list, but you didn't, you slacker!
  • What you should have accomplished yesterday is what is on this list, and there it all is—well done!

With the past-referent versions we would ordinarily say that what you should have accomplished was such-and-such; but when the specification is in some sense “present”, it is not ungrammatical to use is.

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What you should have accomplished is ...

This is talking about activities (accomplishments) that started at some point in the past, and continuing up to the present time. For example:

I know you have been working very hard, but you should have accomplished more compared with the other workers.

meaning that you have not advanced your skills as much as others did. This example would be what you might hear in a performance review.

Future actions are not discussed or implied at all.

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The accomplishment is not necessarily continuing up to present time. For example,

You should have accomplished a higher score on your test.

This is talking about a test you already took, and did not get the score that you should.

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