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Suppose that a student achieved poor academic grades and the officials of the university he attended told him if he fails any other course, they will expel him.

At that time, he said these sentences to himself:

1 Under no circumstances should I fail any other course.

2 I shouldn't fail any other course.

3 I should pass all of my courses.

Now suppose that actually the student managed to pass all of his courses and was not expeled. Also suppose that many years have passed and the student wants to reminisce about his experience in the university for his grandchildren.

How should he say these three sentences?

Since should is its own the past tense of shall, I am confused. And also he cannot say "I shouldn't have failed any other course" because it means he actually failed the courses and now is regretful about that. Is there any way to say this while keeping "should"?

In terms of the example #1, especially I look for a sentence that begins with "Under no circumstances". Is such a thing possible?

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    I don't understand your confusion. The person could simply include "at the time, I believed that" at the beginning of each of those sentences. There is no need to make any other changes. Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 20:29
  • My confusion was mainly because in my mother language we say these two sentences with two different verb tenses and only adding something in the beginning of the sentence doesn't work
    – alireza
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 5:07
  • Can we also say this more simply like this: "At that time, I shouldn't fail any other course." I mean can we omit "I believed that"?
    – alireza
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 5:09
  • No, we can't. Consider: "Yesterday, I believed that I ___." In order to refer to an action at that time or later, you'd typically use a preterite form of a modal verb without the perfect aspect: should / might / could / would. Now consider: "Yesterday, I ___." In order to refer to an action at that time or later, you'd typically use a preterite form of a modal verb with the perfect aspect: should have / might have / could have / would have / must have. Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 5:43
  • 2
    Are you asking how to do reported speech for sentences with "should"? The answer to that is "should" stays the same: "I told myself that under no circumstances should I fail any other course."
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 16:34

1 Answer 1

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What you want to communicate is that the person had to do something in the past. Just as in the previous sentence, using "had" and dropping "should" entirely would sound more natural.

"I had to avoid failing any other course."

We have an explainer and practice questions on modals like this here.

UPD: this account is affiliated with grammarerror.com.

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  • (Disclose your affiliation, please :)
    – Joachim
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 23:29
  • OP specifically asks, Is there any way to say this while keeping "should"? (That's actually the second question out of three; I don't think that you answered the first or third, either.) Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 1:51

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