should have

Should Have

Hypothetical Past Actions


(+): Subject + could/should + have + verb-3.
(-): Subject + could/should + not have + verb-3.

Should have

Should have (usually pronounced “shoulduv”) refers to a “correct” or “better” action or decision regarding a past “mistake”, “bad decision” or regret.

● My computer is always crashing. I should have bought the model my friend recommended.
● Ohhhh…I feel sick. —> You shouldn’t have eaten all that cake and ice-cream.
● Andrew should have married Petra; he wouldn’t be so stressed now.

Could have

Could have (usually pronounced “coulduv”) talks about a possible action or event in the past that didn’t happen. Couldn’t have expresses a very unlikely past event.

● I could have been a football star…but I had injured my knee.
● Dorothy could have gone to university; she was such a bright student in school.
● Aurora could have emigrated to America; instead she chose Sweden.

How would you respond?


1. Harold is broke and in debt.

2. Mr. Yates feels very disappointed and frustrated.

3. Tricia/Scott broke up with her boyfriend/girlfriend.

4. Tom and Sally got divorced.

5. My grandfather has a small pension.

Business, Work

6. Milton can only do low-wage odd jobs.

7. Mr. Bridges is an excellent physics teacher.

8. Everyone said Dee’s great-grandmother was the most beautiful girl in school.

9. Your friend’s brother bought a product that turned out to be a rip off.

10. It is difficult for your colleague to communicate with some Chinese prospects.

11. A restaurant has gone bankrupt.

Actions, Inactions

12. Your friend is in prison.

13. Todd has become deaf. He has lost his hearing.

14. Mr. Cartwright had a car accident.

15. Your neighbour is out of shape.

16. Your former classmate got low marks in school.

Politics, Economics

17. Unemployment in the Republic of Femuria has skyrocketed.

18. War has broken out between Cornia and Coronia.

19. The government has run up a massive budget deficit.

20. The country’s economy is rather weak.

21. There are lots of pensioners and few workers.

22. The temperature is very high.

23. Thousands of people are protesting and demonstrating.

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