How To Say You Should Have Done Something in Spanish

In this lesson you will learn how to say that you should have done something or one should have done something in Spanish. Native English speakers learning Spanish often want to know how to say you could have done something in Spanish. Today, we will cover how to say one should have done something in Spanish. I’ll also point out a common mistake native English speakers make when learning Spanish. Let’s start with how to say one should have done something in Spanish:

I should have eaten this morning.
I should have eaten this morning.

You shouldn’t have spoken in the classroom.
You shouldn’t have talked in the classroom.

The maid should have swept the floor.
The maid should have swept the floor.

The athlete should have caught the ball.
The athlete should have caught the ball.

You could have walked to the movies.
They should have walked to the movies.

We should have cooked the veal.
We should have cooked the veal.

I want to warn you of a mistake that I hear quite a few gringos make here in Medellin, Colombia when they speak Spanish. In fact, a friend made the SAME mistake today when we were traveling in a taxi.

I’ll tell you what he said in Spanish and before pointing out the mistake, try to spot his mistake on your own.

I won’t say his real name because I know he reads my articles and lessons. Let’s say his name is… Joe.

Earlier today, Joe and I shared a taxi fare after visiting another friend who is here visiting Medellin, Colombia this weekend. When we arrived at our destination, Joe offered to pay part of the taxi fare or, as they say in Colombia, “the tickets.”

The fee was the minimum. 4200 Colombian pesos. Just over $2.10 in US dollars.

I handed “el taxista” (the taxi driver) a 5,000 Colombian peso bill and Joe gave the taxi driver coins totaling 200 Colombian pesos. That is, we gave the taxi driver a total of 5,200 Colombian pesos.

Since the fare was only 4,200 and we were giving the driver a total of 5,200, Joe WRONGLY asked the driver:

Do you have a thousand pesos?

Did you spot Joe’s mistake?

If not, look at the sentence again. Joe asked the taxi driver:

Do you have a thousand pesos?

In English we have a tendency to say “thousand” as in “I have a thousand dollars”, “I know a thousand vocabulary words”, “she earns a thousand dollars a week”, etc.

But in Spanish you don’t put the indefinite article “un” (a) before “mil” (thousand). In other words, this is WRONG:

Do you have ONE thousand pesos?

That is NOT the correct way to ask “do you have a thousand pesos?” The correct way to say it is:

Do you have a thousand pesos?
Do you have a thousand pesos?

I also want you to know that this rule of not using the indefinite article does not apply when talking about a “million”. In that case, the indefinite article “un” (a) is used:

He told her a million times.
I’ve told you a million times.

By the way, you might be wondering why Joe didn’t tell the taxi driver to keep the change as a “tip” (tip). Since 1,000 Colombian pesos are equivalent to just over 50 cents.

Well, in Colombia, Colombians don’t usually tip taxi drivers. I know that Joe is not Colombian and he is as gringo as “pie de manzana” (apple pie) and “baseball” (baseball). But we expatriates have a tendency to “do like Colombians when we are in Colombia.”

Also, as indicated by Joe’s willingness to pay only a small portion of the taxi fare, it turns out that he is incredibly “stingy” (stingy/cheap).

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