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Context: There are two lecturers in the particular faculty in the university and both of them are teaching the same subject as two parts. The first lecturer completed his part and the second lecturer is taking classes nowadays.

During a class, the second lecturer is telling [he is in doubt - 50/50] that the first lecturer [should have/might have/would have] taught this section in his classes.

So what would be the ideal modal verb for this situation and why others are not appropriate?

  • That depends on what the speaker wants to say. All those modals are possible but they don't all mean the same thing, and nobody but you knows what the speaker thinks about what the first lecturer has done. – John Lawler Oct 22 at 1:46
  • What do you mean that the second lecturer “is in doubt”? That he doesn’t know what he's talking about? And what do you mean by telling? Telling whom that thing? Did you mean saying not telling? – tchrist Oct 22 at 2:17
  • Hi christ, the section is important so there is an obligation for the first lecturer to teach that [Not mandatory but he has to]. Hence, the second lecturer is in doubt that the first lecturer whether has taught or not. So the second lecturer wants to make sure that. – Prasanth Balendran Oct 22 at 2:23
  • These are not interchangeable; they have different meanings. – Ram Pillai Oct 23 at 5:01
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These are arranged in approximate order of certainty from most to least, but it isn’t quite linear like that because these have different nuances:

  1. The second lecturer said that the first lecturer will have taught this section in his own classes.
  2. The second lecturer said that the first lecturer must have taught this section in his own classes.
  3. The second lecturer said that the first lecturer would have taught this section in his own classes.
  4. The second lecturer said that the first lecturer may have taught this section in his own classes.
  5. The second lecturer said that the first lecturer might have taught this section in his own classes.
  6. The second lecturer said that the first lecturer could have taught this section in his own classes.
  7. The second lecturer said that the first lecturer ought to have taught this section in his own classes.
  8. The second lecturer said that the first lecturer should have taught this section in his own classes.

Perhaps there’s even a case to be made for shall have taught, but that is a different thing entirely, more like a command.

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By "the second lecturer is taking classes nowadays." I assume he is teaching the class or is he still a student taking or attending the classes. Some places use taking to mean either one.

In either case perfectly fine sentences can be made of each of the verbs you listed. The most boring one might be what they had in mind as the most certain to have happened; They must have taught this section. After Must they might line up in likeliness as: Would have; Should have; Might have. Without some other context suggesting a follow up it is mere speculation.

Should have can actually be used if the subject was actually covered. As in:"I'm glad he covered the topic; he certainly should have! There is no contradiction just affirmation.

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  • Thanks, Elliot for your explanation, is it okay to use [should have] in this context as the should have refers to an event that did not happen..? – Prasanth Balendran Oct 22 at 1:56

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