1

What is the meaning of 'should have' in the following sentences:

  1. I should have let her know what was happening but I forgot.

  2. They should have remembered that their guests don't eat meat meat.

  3. I should have sent everybody a reminded by email.

  4. He should have told them the truth but he didn't.

  5. I don't think you should have done it.

I'm confused here because I know that 'should have' is used to imply 'regret' for example:

  1. I got really wet today while going to market. I should have taken an umbrella.

  2. She wept so badly. I shouldn't have scolded her.

do the first five examples imply 'regret'? Or, do 'should have' implies both 'obligation and regreats' in all those 5 examples? Or, Do 'should have' implies both 'obligation and regreats' in all those 5 examples?

  • I see regret in each of the first 4 examples, please explain what you don't understand. – djna May 26 '16 at 9:26
  • do all sentences expresses 'regrets' ? please tell me – yubraj May 26 '16 at 9:52
3

You ask whether each of the 5 examples express regret. At first sight, as a native English speaker, it seems obvious that regret is in all 5 examples. This makes me think that we differ in our understanding of "regrets".

I am thinking of regret in the sense of "I wish that the situation were different from this; I wish that I had made a different choice or taken a different action."

You give the example:

I got really wet today while going to market. I should have taken an umbrella.

Here I wish that I had chosen to take an umbrella. You seem to agree that this in an expression of regret. I then don't see any significant difference from that pattern in items 1 and 3:

1) I should have let her know what was happening but I forgot.
3) I should have sent everybody a reminded by email.

Items 2 and 4 are a little different, in that the wished-for action would have been performed by someone else rather than the speaker:

2) They should have remembered that their guests don't eat meat meat.
4) He should have told them the truth but he didn't.

But again this does seem to be regret as I understand it, a wish that an action in the past had been different.

Number 5 is slightly different in that we are wishing that an action had not been taken.

5) I don't think you should have done it.

Note that this could have been expressed as

I think you should not have done it.

I see regret in both cases, but there's a small difference in feeling between the two: the second is very certain, the first may vary in certainty depending upon how it is spoken. On the written page

I don't think you should have done it.

implies a "but maybe you were right" on the end. When spoken we might put the emphasis in different places and convey different meaning.

I don't think you should have done it.

I don't think you should have done it.

In all 5 cases I see regret, in the sense of "I wish that something in the past were different."

  • Please make it clear by editing your answer – yubraj May 26 '16 at 12:09
  • Does 'Should have' imply both obligation and regreat? Please edit answer to make it clear – yubraj May 26 '16 at 12:11
1

Besides implying regret for something that was or wasn't done, "should have" can also be used:

  1. To talk about past events that did not happen:

He should have told them the truth but he didn't.

  1. To speculate about events that may or may not have happened:

They should have got the letter this morning. I expect they will let us know about it later.

  1. To speculate negatively about what may or may not have happened:

He shouldn't have left work yet. I'll call him at the office.

  1. To tell other people that a different action in the past would have been better:

You should have helped him instead of just looking on.

  1. To talk about something in the past that you ought to or might have done:

I should have studied more for my test. (If I had, I wouldn't have failed it.)

I should have listened to your advice. (Had I listened to your advice, I wouldn't have gotten into trouble.)

As for the five example sentences, my opinion is that ## 1, 4 may be regarded as both regrets and just statements, depending on the context; # 5 is an opinion about what would have been better; # 3 is a regret, and # 2 is either a reproach for something that wasn't done (also a regret) or a speculation about what may have been done - again, depending on the context.

  • Thank you very much for posting answer, in conclusion can we say: All the 5 examples imply the regreats, – yubraj May 26 '16 at 11:32
  • Are the combination of 'regrets and obligation? – yubraj May 26 '16 at 11:37
  • yubraj sharma@ As a reply to your comment a para was added – Victor B. May 26 '16 at 12:02

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