Both translate in English to "You should have spoken". Is there a difference between them?

  • please, review this question as the second form is not correct, just to point out hubieras debido hablar and then delete the corresponding comments – Iria Feb 25 '20 at 9:16
  • 1
    Thanks for pointing out the mistake, I corrected the title. – wishihadabettername Feb 25 '20 at 12:27

"You should have spoken" is originally translated as "deberías haber hablado" (condicional compuesto).

However, it is common in Spanish to replace condicional simple/compuesto forms with pretérito imperfecto/pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo respectively. From Hispanoteca:

Con los verbos querer, haber, deber, poder y valer es frecuente el empleo de la forma en –ra sustituyendo en el verbo principal a los condicionales simple (-ría) y compuesto (-habría...), así como al presente de indicativo sin cambio de significado.



Hubiera / habría debido proceder con más tacto

This does not only happen with querer, haber, deber, poder and valer, but it may happen with any verb in the "then" clause of a conditional sentence (Fundéu):

Cuando la prótasis lleva el verbo en pretérito pluscuamperfecto, el verbo de la apódosis puede aparecer en condicional simple, en condicional compuesto o también en pretérito pluscuamperfecto:

Si hubieras comido, ahora no estarías hambriento.

Si lo hubiera sabido, habría ido.

Si lo hubiera sabido, hubiera ido.

Pese a que algunas personas evitan o rechazan esta última combinación, no se considera incorrecta.

This means that both "deberías haber hablado" and "hubieras debido hablar" are used and accepted, and even "habrías debido hablar", though this last one is even less common. Note that one verb must be in infinitive form and another one in participle form, i.e., you can say "hubieras debido hablar" but not "hubieras debido hablado".


Deberías haber hablado = You should have spoken.

Hubieras debido hablado = You would have must spoken.

The second sentences sounds, to me, just wrong. I'm from Mexico and nobody would say it like that, maybe you could hear something like "hubieras debido hablar" but still, it isn't that common.

"Deberías" (from deber) is a modal verb. It's in its conditional form deberías=you should. With modal verbs (deber, poder, querer, etc.) in Spanish is common to use the past (or past perfect) subjunctive instead of the conditional and it's been accepted as correct for some time now. So, deberías = debieras = you should.

When talking about the present (or future) you say:

deberías hablar en este momento (or debieras hablar en este momento) = you should speak right now.

deberías hablar mañana con él (or debieras hablar mañana con él) = you should speak to him tomorrow.

When talking about the past you say:

deberías haber hablado ayer (debieras haber hablado ayer) = you should have spoken yesterday.

Now, "hubieras" (haber in past subjunctive) is used like "should" in English but only when talking about past events, e.g.

hubieras venido a la fiesta, estuvo divertida = you should have come to the party, it was fun.

hubieras estudiado, el examen va a estar difícil = you should have studied, the exam is going to be hard.

hubieras hablado = you should have spoken


The second sentence is wrong, it should be "Hubieras debido hablar". This error corrected (I guess it's just a typo), the two sentences are equivalent.

  • Thanks for pointing out the mistake, I corrected the title. – wishihadabettername Feb 25 '20 at 12:27

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