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

Yo debería haber comido esta mañana.

I should have eaten this morning.

Tú no deberías haber hablado en la aula.

You should not have spoken in the classroom.

La empleada debería haber barrido el piso.

The maid should have swept the floor.

El deportista debería haber agarrado el balón.

The athlete should have caught the ball.

Ustedes deberían haber caminado al cine.

You guys should have walked to the movies.

Nosotros deberíamos haber cocinado la ternera.

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 speaking Spanish. In fact, a friend made the SAME mistake earlier today when we were riding in a cab.

I will tell you what he said in Spanish and before I point out the mistake, try to spot his error on your own.

I will not say his real name because I know that he reads my articles and lessons. Let’s just say his name is… Joe.

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

The fare was the minimum. 4,200 Colombian pesos. A little more than $2.10 in U.S. dollars.

I handed “el taxista” (the cab driver) a bill of 5,000 Colombian pesos and Joe then gave the taxi driver coins totaling 200 Colombian pesos. In other words, we gave the cab driver a total of 5,200 Colombian pesos.

Since the fare was only 4,200 and we were handing the cab driver a total of 5,200 Joe INCORRECTLY asked the cab driver:

¿Tienes un mil pesos?

Did you spot Joe’s error?

If not, look at the phrase again. Joe asked the cab driver:

¿Tienes un mil pesos?

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

But in Spanish you do not put the indefinite article “un” (a) before “mil” (thousand). In other words, this is INCORRECT:

¿Tienes UN mil pesos?

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

¿Tienes mil pesos?

Do you have a thousand pesos?

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

Se lo he dicho un millón de veces.

I have told him (it) a million times.

By the way, you may be wondering why didn’t Joe just tell the cab driver to keep the change as a “propina” (tip). Since 1,000 Colombian pesos is equivalent to a little more than 50 cents.

Well in Colombia, Colombians usually don’t tip the cab drivers. I know that Joe isn’t Colombian and he’s as Gringo as “pastel de manzana” (apple pie) and “béisbol” (baseball). But we expats have a tendency to “do as the Colombians when in Colombia.

Besides, as Joe’s willingness to pay only a small portion of the cab fare indicates, he happens to be incredibly “tacaño” (cheap/stingy).


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