Why Paul Ryan should vote for Hillary Clinton. —headline, The Fiscal Times
Speaker Paul Ryan should disavow Donald Trump. —headline, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Paul Ryan says Donald Trump should release tax returns —headline, Wall Street Journal
It’s amazing (and more than a little depressing) to me that such enormous holes persist in my French, even after 2 3/4 years of studying really, really hard! I just realized that I don’t know how to express the difference between must and should. Obligation–must–that, I can express. It’s the verb devoir in the present tense. Ideal actions, desired actions–that’s a bit more complicated, both in French and in English. (See the English notes at the bottom for the English issues.)
See here for more information about parallel corpora like OPUS 2.
To express the idea of should, we still use devoir, but we need its conditional tenses. For the English present tense, e.g. I should, we use the French present conditional of devoir. You can read about how to do so here on the Lawless French web site; I’ll give you some examples from the Sketch Engine web site. I used Sketch Engine to search the OPUS2 corpus, a collection of billions of words of text in 40 different languages, drawn from sources as diverse as movie subtitles and the proceedings of the European Parliament, and lined up with each other wherever possible. We’re talking 1.1 billion words of English, 600,000 words of Afrikaans, 46 million words of Albanian, 300 million words of Arabic, etc. French? Almost 766 million.
Don’ t you think that before shooting a spy, we should make him talk?
Vous ne pensez pas qu’avant d’abattre un espion, on devrait le faire parler?
Now that we have finished the script, we should save it to disk.
Maintenant que nous avons fini le script, nous devrions l’enregistrer sur le disque.
Well, then, I think we should go out on a Sunday night.
On devrait sortir le dimanche soir alors.
What we should do is have dinner sometime.
On devrait dîner ensemble un soir.
To talk about something that you should have done in the past, you need the past conditional of devoir. Here‘s the Lawless French page with an example–there’s a more detailed lesson hidden somewhere on the Lawless French Kwiziq site, but I have no clue how to tell you how to find it. Again, I’ll give you some examples from the OPUS 2 corpus, retrieved via the Sketch Engine web site:
I knew we should have stayed on this case.
Je savais qu’on aurait dû rester sur cette affaire.
Maybe we should have bought some rice in town.
On aurait peut-être dû acheter du riz en ville.
According to all you told us, and to all calculations … we should have located the mine two days ago.
D’après ce que vous nous avez dit et nos calculs, nous aurions dû trouver la mine il y a deux jours.
Wonder if we should have told the exec about that package … … Mike used to keep under his sack.
Je me demande si on aurait dû parler du paquet … – que Mike gardait sous sa couchette.
As a result, we have not been able to make as much progress as we should have.
En conséquence, nous n’avons pas pu réaliser tous les progrès que nous aurions dû accomplir.
It’s hard to believe that the 2020 Republican primaries won’t see Paul Ryan pitted against Tom Cruz. Cruz will still be as scary then as he is now, I imagine–personally, I find him even more frightening than Trump, and I find Trump pretty damn frightening. Paul Ryan will continue to bear the burden of his failure (so far) to denounce Trumpism, which probably won’t hurt him much in the Republican primaries, but I hope will keep him from winning the general election.
If you’re French: I probably don’t have to tell you that should in English is at least as bizarre as it is in French. There’s a good web page on it here, from the Cambridge Dictionary. Note that the page describes the British uses of the word, which are different from the American ones in some respects. For example, the conditional form should you, as in should you want some coffee…, is not used in America–we would say if you want some coffee… The UK also has a formal/neutral alternation between should and would that we don’t have in the US. For example, the Brits have neutral I would love to come and formal I should love to come, but in the US, only I would love to come will work. Finally, oughtn’t instead of shouldn’t is more formal in British English, but it’s dialectal and possibly stigmatized in the US.