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In Advanced Grammar In Use, Unit 20, there's this:

We also use should have + past participle to talk about an expectation that something happened, has happened, or will happen:

(1) If the flight was on time, he should have arrived in Jakarta early this morning.

(2) The builders should have finished by the end of the week.

I believe that (1) corresponds to "an expectation that something happened", and that (2) "an expectation that something will happen".

Am I right?

If so, "the week" refers to this week, and "the end of the week" a future time.

Assuming that "the end of the week" refers to a future time, do these variations of (2) work?

(2a) The builders should finish by the end of the week.

(2b) The builders should finish at the end of the week.

(2c) The builders should have finished at the end of the week.

EDIT

Having read the answers by Evelyn and RuslanD, I now know (2c) is not natural English. How about these alternatives?

(2d) The builders should have finished before the end of the week.

(2e) The builders should have finished at or before the end of the week.

(2f) The builders should have finished within the end of the week.

(2g) The builders should have finished the end of the week.

Or can you think of some other preposition that works in this sentence?

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1) Right. You don't know whether the plane was on time or some other factor intervened, but you fully expected him to arrive in Jakata this morning and have no reason to think he didn't.

2) Also right (mostly). "The week" is the present week, and "the end of the week" is yet to come (unless right now happens to be 5:00 pm on Friday, or midnight on Saturday, or whatever other time has been defined as the end of the week).

In 2) & 2a), "by" means "at or before," so the builders are expected to be done sometime between now and the end of the week.

In 2), the past perfect implies prior completion, so it means you expect the builders to have finished the work, swept up the debris, and left the site well before 5:00 pm on Friday (which I'm going to define as the end of the week for the purposes of this answer).

2a) is the simplest construction here, and the present simply means that you expect the builders to finish the work at or before 5:00 pm on Friday.

In 2b), "at" means "at (that moment)" so it would most strictly mean that you expect the last nail to be driven home at exactly 5:00pm on Friday. But, depending on context, "at" usually carries some leeway to either side of the time specified (perhaps especially so in the context of builders).

2c) is the only one that doesn't quite work. The prior completion of the past perfect and the immediacy of "at" are at odds with each other. It's not very wrong, but does sound off and it's not something I would say unless by accident.

(My landlord's got builders working at my apartment right now. They're not supposed to have finished until the end of week after next (that is, about two-and-a-half weeks from now), and there's a good chance they won't be done even by then.)

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  • See also @RuslanD's answer, which gives a different but also valid interpretation of (2b) and (2c). The only reason I did not include it is that it slipped my mind while I was writing my answer. (Perhaps because your example involved builders, and the builders responsible for the ongoing chaos outside my window have jack-hammered certain parts of my brain into senselessness.) – Evelyn Mar 19 '15 at 11:03
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Your analysis about sentences (1) and (2) is correct. In (1), we expect that the person has arrived in Jakarta earlier on, so it's an expectation that something has happened, as per the definition you quoted. In (2), we expect that sometime between the present moment and the end of the week, the builders will finish their work. Or, in other words, by the end of the week, they will have finished the work. The emphasis here is that we expect everything to be done by the end of the week.

There is a difference between "by the end of the week" and "at the end of the week". The first expression is about a duration of time, and the second expression is about a point in time. With that in mind, lets analyze the alternatives:

(2a) The builders should finish by the end of the week.

That's a correct alternative way to express the original sentence.

(2b) The builders should finish at the end of the week.

Here, you're actually saying that whatever work remains to be done, it should be done on the last day of the week. Here's an extended example:

The builders have been working very hard, and fortunately there is little left to do. Give them the rest of the week off, but remind them at at the end of the week, they should finish whatever is left, so we can get started on the new project next week.

(2c) is similar to (2b), but in my opinion very awkward.

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  • See also @Evelyn's answer, she gives another interpretation of (2b) and (2c) that's also valid and probably more common. – RuslanD Mar 19 '15 at 9:30
  • Again, great minds think (almost) alike. I saw on your profile that we live in the same city, and was briefly tempted to wonder whether we are just one person with two screen names. ;) – Evelyn Mar 19 '15 at 11:03

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