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Look! The car's broken down again! I told you we ____ it before we left!

1 should have checked

2 should check

I think that both are correct. What's the difference?

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  • Yes, both are correct, but you might say that the perfect is redundant because the past/anterior meaning is conveyed by "before we left".
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 15 at 9:31

2 Answers 2

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I told you we should check it before we left - Before they set off, the speaker recommended checking something about the car, but it wasn't done.

I told you we should have checked it... - Earlier in the journey, the speaker wished that they had checked it before leaving (perhaps because the car had started to make a strange noise).

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  • It occurred to me that in the second scenario it should be "I told you we should have checked it before we HAD LEFT".
    – user1425
    Commented Mar 15 at 15:39
  • No. As people have often commented on this forum, it's not necessary, and makes the sentence cumbersome, to use the perfect tense for every verb, if using it once makes the meaning clear. Check it before we left is what we should have done. Commented Mar 16 at 9:21
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... I told you we ____ it before we left!

should have checked doesn't fit in OP's example as it is for a conversation after the breakdown, which may not be the OP's intention.

should check is possible:

I told you we should check it before we left!

Also possible is

I told you to check it before we left!

This last version (a request to check) means slightly different from that using we should check (a suggestion).

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  • I kind of agree. But don't you think that it depends on what was said initially? If it was "We should have checked it before ..." then "should have checked" should remain.
    – user1425
    Commented Mar 15 at 8:10
  • Thanks, @user1425. Yes, agreed. If We should have checked it before ... was said earlier, we can repeat should've checked. If the pre-trip conversation was we should check it before we leave, we use the should check version. Commented Mar 15 at 8:23

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