We can use the following structure

Should + have + p.p.

with two different meanings.

Can someone explain those meanings for me?

  • 4
    If you don't know what the two different meanings are, then how do you know there are two different meanings? – Jon Hanna Feb 13 '14 at 17:50
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    Also, I don't see how your learning linquistics applies, but it would seem that you can never accept any answer at all. – Jon Hanna Feb 13 '14 at 17:53
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    I should have thought OP would have more sense than to antagonise respondents by slagging off potentially irrelevant answers before he's even seen them. He should have been more deferential. – FumbleFingers Feb 13 '14 at 18:07
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    @FumbleFingers I should have hoped it was a given that irrelevant answers wouldn't be accepted, but if someone is to insist upon formal answers then they should have written the question more formally than with hasty abbreviations. – Jon Hanna Feb 13 '14 at 21:44
  • @Jon: I suppose in the final analysis my usage above (and indeed, yours) are subcategories within the "obligation" sense as set out by Cerberus. That's to say, if we were thinking/hoping "properly, as we ought", those would be our idea[l]s. I can't explain exactly why, but it seems to me casting the statements as "past tense hypothetical" implies disdain here (rather than deference, as would normally be the case with, say, "I would ask..." instead of "I ask..."). God knows how you analyse "I should have hoped" as opposed to "I should hope" (or just plain "I hope"). – FumbleFingers Feb 13 '14 at 22:52

Should can be used in two (modal) ways:

  1. to express obligation, you should do the dishes now;

  2. to express probability, Napoleon should be unable to conquer St Petersburg.

It can be used in both ways in your construction. That is all that can be said about this without further context.

  • OP did in fact give considerably more context than you've acknowledged there. Specifically, he's focussed on should + have + p.p., so riddle me this: does my third comment to the question itself represent obligation, probability, or what? I can't really see much of an element of obligation there, but it seems more like certainty than probability to me. – FumbleFingers Feb 13 '14 at 18:13
  • He should have been fits obligation, surely. However, there is the alternative to would: "If it had rained, I don't know what I should have done." That's neither obligation nor probability. – Andrew Leach Feb 13 '14 at 18:16
  • @Andrew: Yes, obligation is the underlying sense of the second instance in my comment. But I should have thought it was fairly obvious I was thinking of the first instance. Which is really indistinguishable from I would have thought. Theoretically that verb form represents "irrealis", but that would hardly stand up in court since ipso facto I'm declaring that I do think whatever I should/would have thought. – FumbleFingers Feb 13 '14 at 18:41
  • @Cerberus: I should apologise for my earlier flippancy. And the fact that I plain forgot to upvote what's obviously the most complete (and correct) answer that can be given with OP's limited context. To all intents and purposes I suspect the + have + p.p. bit is irrelevant (apart from being a spur to flippancy). Whatever - I've no doubt it's a dup of several earlier questions too, but someone else can do the spadework for that. – FumbleFingers Feb 13 '14 at 23:46

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