For some of my private and company students in Japan, might have/should have English grammar can be confusing. Let me share a lesson I made to help explain these phrases, and I also added the expression would have. I hope this post is helpful for you and be sure to leave a comment below before you go!
Video at the end of the post now. Review this grammar in video form!
Might have – Should have – Would have
We use contractions (short versions) of these expressions in spoken English.
Might’ve – should’ve – would’ve
In more formal written English, we will write both words.
Might have – should have – would have
*For this lesson I will use both styles.
Might have – might’ve 📁
We use might have to describe something that was possible in the past if another thing had happened.
Please look at this example:
“If we had gone to Hollywood, we might’ve met a movie star.”
~ There was a possibility to meet someone famous, but we didn’t go to Hollywood. (So it wasn’t possible.)
Could and May also have the same meaning here.
…we could’ve met a movie star.
…we may have met a movie star.
📚 Grammar point
Could have, Should have and Would have are used with the perfect tense. Perfect tense English grammar = have + the past participle
…we could’ve met a movie star.
Met is the past participle of the verb to meet.
Meet ~ meet – met – met
We also use might have to express uncertainty about a past event.
“I think I might’ve left my umbrella on the train.”
~ I lost my umbrella, maybe I forgot it on the train.
Natural conversation with might’ve:
Andy: “The game was almost sold out by the time I got to the ticket office. There were no good seats left, I had to buy ones way out in left field.”
Will: “You might’ve been able to get better seats if you got there earlier.”
Been is the past participle of the verb to be
Vincent: “Everyone’s here except Brad.”
Ian: “He might’ve had to work late tonight. He said work has been busy this week.”
Had is the past participle of the verb to have
The past participle is also used with the Passive Voice. Learn Passive Voice English grammar HERE!
Should have – should’ve 📁
We use should have to describe something that was expected to happen, but did not happen or has not happened yet.
The bus should’ve arrived ten minutes ago.
~ The bus has not arrived, I expected the bus to be here 10 minutes ago.
Arrived is the past participle of the verb to arrive.
arrive – arrived – arrived
Should have is also used to show regret for something that cannot now be changed.
“It’s so busy in Starbucks today. We should’ve gone to Mr. Donut.”
gone is the past participle of the verb to go.
go – went – gone
~ We’re in Starbucks now but there are many customers so we have to wait. (for coffee, food, seats etc.) It was a mistake to come here, I think that going to Mr. Donut would have been better, but it’s too late now.
Natural conversation with should’ve:
Richard: “I have bad news boss. My computer crashed and I lost all the files for the year-end project.”
Boss: “What!?!? That project is very important ! You should’ve made backup copies of those files!”
Made is the past participle of the verb to make.
make – made – made
John: “Did you see Grandpa this morning? He lost a lot of weight! I think the cardigan we bought him will be too big.”
Dave: “We should’ve bought a smaller size.”
The past participle of the verb to buy is bought.
buy – bought – bought
Would have – would’ve 📁
Would have is used to talk about a past thing someone wanted to do, but did not or could not do.
“I would have gone to the party but I had a headache.”
I wanted to go to the party but I didn’t go. (because I had a headache)
John: “I think the cardigan we bought Grandpa will be too big.”
Dave: “I would’ve bought a medium instead of a large, but they didn’t have any medium sized cardigans in that color.”
Dave wanted to buy a medium-size cardigan but he couldn’t because the store didn’t have any cardigans in that size. (Maybe that size is popular so the store is sold out.)
“Winston would’ve been here sooner but he had to work late.”
We use would have with the conditional IF to explain why something didn’t happen, doesn’t happen or can’t happen.
“Winston would’ve been here sooner IF he didn’t have to work late.”
The reason Winston is late (why he is late) is because he had to work overtime.
“I would’ve bought a medium cardigan IF they had any.”
The reason I didn’t buy a medium cardigan is because the store didn’t have any.
Do you feel confident to use this grammar in conversation? Still not sure? Write a comment for me below using this grammar. Use a real example from your life that you can use later in a real conversation 💬 Now you can watch the video too!
Thanks to https://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/could-have-should-have-would-have.html for help with this post content!