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How To Say I Should Have or I Could Have Done Something In Spanish

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Many Spanish students have asked me how do you say I should have or I could have done something in Spanish. For example, “I should have made dinner reservations.” Lets take a look at how we express this idea in Spanish…

The correct way to express this is to use:

The verb “Deber” in conditional tense + Haber + Past Participle

We also have a second option (which means the same thing):

The verb “Tener” in conditional tense + Haber + Past Participle

We also have a third option in order to express “could have.” The verb “Poder” in the conditional tense + Haber + Past Participle (It used as for example “I could have gone…”)

Example: Debería haber ido al cine contigo, porque no hice nada divertido el sábado por la noche. (I should have gone to the cinema with you, because I ended up not doing anything fun on Saturday night).

Let’s look at a situation in the past and then we will practice making phrase about this situation using the above verb constructions.

“Ricardo pasó mucho tiempo pensando en qué comprarle a su amiga para su cumpleaños. Pensó en comprarle ropa, pero le pareció un regalo muy aburrido. Después pensó en un libro, pero no sabía qué tipo de libros podrían gustarle. Finalmente decidió regalarle un gato. Leila, su amiga, pasó toda la noche estornudando, porque es alérgica a los gatos.” (Ricardo spent a lot of time thinking about what to get his female friend for her birthday. He thought about buying clothes, but it seemed like a very boring gift. Then he thought of a book, but he did not know what kind of book she might like. Finally he decided to give her a cat. Leila, his friend spent the night sneezing, because she is allergic to cats.)

Let’s look at some phrases we could make in relation to what happened:

Ricardo debería haber preguntado a su amiga si le gustaban los gatos. (Ricardo should have asked his friend if she liked cats.)

Ricardo tendría que haber pensado en algo más simple, como un perfume. (Ricardo should have thought of something simpler, like a perfume.)

Ricardo podría haber investigado qué tipo de libros le gustaban. (Ricardo could have investigated what kind of books she liked.)

Ricardo debería haber comprado ropa, a las chicas siempre les gusta. (Ricardo should have bought clothing, girls always like clothes.)

Of course, we can also form phrases using the Pluscuamperfect Subjunctive.

Si + Pluscuamperfect Subjunctive + Conditional (Simple or Compound: according to whether the situation affects the past or the present).

Si hubiera sabido que ella era alérgica, no le habría regalado un gato. (If he had known she was allergic, he wouldn’t of gave a cat).

Si él no le hubiera regalado un gato, ahora no se sentiría culpable por su alergia. (If he had not given her a cat, he wouldn’t feel guilty about it right now.)

 

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