We use this sentence pattern to express regret. It is used to talk about things we wish we did and things we wish we did not do in the past.
I + should (not) have + past participle...
- I regret buying this shirt.
(= I should not have bought this shirt.)
- I regret not going to the party.
(= I should have gone to the party.)
- I should have been nicer to her. (Really, I was not nice to her)
- I should have eaten breakfast. (Really, I didn't eat breakfast)
- I should have come earlier.
- I should have studied English harder when I was young.
- I shouldn't have taken this class. (Really, I took the class)
- I should not have eaten all the cookies. (Really, I ate all the cookies)
- I shouldn't have accepted this job because it is too far from my house.
- I should not have called her when I was drunk.
We can also use the subject "we" when expressing regret.
- We should have left earlier. We are going to be late.
- We should have worked harder on our project. We didn't do a good job.
- We shouldn't have bought that expensive TV.
- We should not have gotten a puppy.
When we use another person as the subject, we are not expressing regret. We are pointing out the other person's mistake. We think that the action the other person did in the past was not correct or the best choice. Subject + should (not) have + past participle...
Bonus Tips and Points
- He shouldn't have quit his job. (Really, he quit his job and I think it was a mistake.)
- They should have called before they came. (Really, they didn't call and I don't approve.)
- Mark should have asked before he took my jacket.
- Tina should have studied harder for the test.
- Ben and Tina should have bought a house in our neighborhood.
- Greg shouldn't have said that to Tina. It wasn't nice.
- They should have been more prepared for their meeting.
- The students should have been more respectful to their teacher.
- The man should have thought more before he spoke.
- The women should have talked out their problem instead of fighting.
1. We can also ask questions using "should (not) have". These questions are used to ask other people what they think about our actions or other people's actions in the past.
- What should I have done differently?
- What do you think she should have done?
- Where should we have gone instead of here?
- Why do you think she shouldn't have bought that car?
- How do you think we should have handled the problem?
- Should I have helped her?
- Should she have asked before she did that?
2. We can also use "should have" to speculate about what probably happened or did not happen in the past. These sentences usually include the words "already" or "by".
Real-World English Conversations
- He should have read the email by now. I sent it to him 3 hours ago.
- They should have arrived already. Their flight landed at 4 and it is 5:30 now.
- Mark shouldn't have left the office by now. He usually works until 9.
A) I shouldn't have ordered the salad.
B) Do you not like it?
A) It's okay, but your hamburger looks so good. I should have ordered that.
B) Here, you can have some.
A) Mark told me that my report was terrible.
B) That's not nice. He shouldn't have said that.
A) I think so too. He should have said it in a nicer and more constructive way.
A) This traffic is terrible. We are going to be late.
B) We should have left earlier.
A) I think we should have just stayed home.
A) I am so tired today. I stayed up too late watching TV.
B) I guess that you shouldn't have done that.
A) I know. I should have gone to bed early.
A) I'm sorry I called you an idiot. I shouldn't have said that. It wasn't nice.
B) That's okay. I shouldn't have raised my voice.A) I guess that we both regret our actions.
B) Yeah, but we will always be friends. It's okay if we fight from time to time. Study these free English lessons to improve your English speaking. If you learn these common sentence patterns well, then your English speaking will improve greatly and you will be able to have fluent conversations in English in the near future! Study the lessons well, practice using the sentences and questions at home and in real life, and make sure to come back to review the material so you do not forget. If you do these three things, then you will be speaking English like a native English speaker in no time!