I have been practicing grammar structures of various modal verbs (from the Thomson/Martinet structure drills exercise book) and I have come across this one exercise that left me pretty confused.

The exercise is aimed at practicing two structures:

should + continuous infinitive (i.e. I should be doing)


should + continuous perfect infinitive (i.e. I should have been doing).

In the exercise, you are given 20 sentences and you have to transform them, using both structures—continuous inf. and perfect continuous inf. The example given made it pretty unclear for me when should I use which structure. It goes like this:


A: It's 7.20 and Ann is sleeping.
B: She shouldn't be sleeping. She should have been getting dressed.


A: At 7.20 yesterday Ann was sleeping.
B: She shouldn't have been sleeping. She should have been getting dressed.

So, my question is: Why is should + perfect continuous used in (ONE)?

In my understanding "should + continuous infinitive" would be the correct structure, as in:

"She shouldn`t be sleeping. She should be getting dressed (now)" ?

Is it an error / a typo or am I missing something here?

1 Answer 1


Congratulations! You understand this too well to be intimidated by a textbook.

As it stands, the last sentence in ONE is probably in error; on the 'default' assumption that its reference is to Ann's current obligation, it should read

A: It's 7.20 and Ann is sleeping.
B: She shouldn't be sleeping. She should be getting dressed.

However: if the sentence made an explicit reference to a past time, it would not be in error:

She should have been getting dressed twenty minutes ago.

  • Like in: "Come on Joe, youre still playing this computer game? You shouldnt be doing that now! You should be getting ready. Actually, you should have been getting ready like half an hour ago!!!" ??
    – IGO
    Jun 29, 2015 at 0:25
  • @IGO Exactly. Move on to the next chapter, you've got this one nailed. Jun 29, 2015 at 0:29
  • ok, back to obsessing about English tense system then. Cheers buddy ;)
    – IGO
    Jun 29, 2015 at 0:34
  • I think I'd also use "should have been [...optional 'already']" to describe something that someone should be doing now and should have reached a state of progress consistent with having started some time ago, without reference to a specific amount of time. Or an implicit very recent time "should have been cleaning your room [five seconds ago when I opened the door and found you playing a video game, and starting now doesn't actually make up for that]"
    – Random832
    Jun 29, 2015 at 0:34
  • 1
    @Araucaria A poignant reminder that dysfluency is universal. Oct 2, 2015 at 12:54

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