Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve – The Modal Auxiliary Anecdotal

May 8, 2015

Posted on LADO TEFL Facebook PageCOL

These 3 words tend to wreak havoc for Latino and specifically Colombian students learning English. Ironically they are words for worry in my vocabulary as well. Why you may ask? For students it is due to the hard ‘d’, at the end of the word, ‘v’ sound, often mistaken for a ‘b’ sound. We had one student, Ana Maria Ortiz. I remember practicing the hard ‘d’ with her and attempting many a time to make the v sooo very extraordinary. After all, repetition is secret ingredient to correct pronunciation. Then, there are contractions, a point of discomfort for many students in the field (or perhaps jungle) of English as a Second Language. Putting two words and sounds together to unite and become one entity. For me, the trouble comes from the meaning. Modal auxiliary verbs express permission, ability, possibility, or intentions in the past. What one could have done, should have done, or would have done is an action of the past that ultimately, one did not do and sometimes is irrelevant.


Thinking about the past can be healthy when it comes in the form of reflection. Harping on the past and clinging to an idea that no longer matters bears very little significance in one’s life. My former roommate, Amy, and I, had this saying, ‘you do you’. It means more or less to follow your heart and be on your merry way. Bear in mind your actions of the past may have consequences, but oftentimes they’re not so grave as to have an impact on your day-to-day life. The irony comes from the fact that I will be traveling to Colombia in June. These words, like for many Colombians can be troublesome for me as well.
What matters is how you use the lessons of yesterday to make tomorrow better. After all, life is about trial and error. When you learn what you could’ve, should’ve, or would have done differently in a particular place in time and apply it to the future, that is where learning occurs. Where there is learning there is also growth. These are some parts of the recipe for success that you can apply (in small doses) to plan what you could, should, or would do – in the future!

-Salina Khanna

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