Subtlety in meaning of, say, ils auraient dû+ infinitive

EinarC1Kwiziq community member

Subtlety in meaning of, say, ils auraient dû+ infinitive

I have come across uses of le conditionnel passé avec devoir where the meaning appears to lean more towards “would have” than “should have”.  Par exemple “les alertes auraient dû sauver des vies”, by the context of the article could have been interpreted as a praise of the alert system as opposed to criticising the fact that the alert system did not do its job. Alternatively, it could mean criticism of people for not taking notice of the alerts. So, does “ils auraient dû + infinitive” always mean “should have”, or is there some subtle shading of meaning? 

Asked 2 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Just to add to the other answers - 

L'installation d'alertes auraient sauvé des vies The installation of alerts would have saved lives 

They weren't there but if they had been, lives would have been saved 

Les alertes auraient dû sauver des vies =Alerts should have saved lives 
They were there but lives weren't saved 
auraient dû = should have / ought to have 

you use devoir in the conditional past 

auraient fait= would have done

you use any verb ( here sauver) in the conditional past

Hope this helps!

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Einar,

I have also had some difficulty with the interpretation of Conditional + dû.

What I have found useful is to think through what it actually means   --  "would have had to"   --  this helps me to accept "should" when I think carefully about that form of words.

So now I tend to accept "should" as being appropriate in the cases that I come across.

Hope this helps.

Jim    

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I think the meaning here is more like "probably have", and we can also use "should have" in English in this sense.

https://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/could-have-should-have-would-have.html

2: We can also use should have + past participle to talk about something that, if everything is normal and okay, we think has already happened. But we're not certain that everything is fine, so we use 'should have' and not the present perfect or past simple. It's often used with 'by now'.

His plane should have arrived by now (= if everything is fine, the plane has arrived).

John should have finished work by now (= if everything is normal, John has finished work).

EinarC1Kwiziq community member

Many thanks, Jim and Alan - after some reflection, I think “should have” would practically always apply. But I do also like the extra shade of meaning which Alan described.

Cheers, Einar

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I'm confused now, Cécile. Are you saying that in French the sentence can't mean that the alerts (which were there) may have actually saved lives?

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Alan, 

Are you thinking of the use of the conditional for media purposes? 

Les alertes auraient sauvé des vies 

The alarms may have/ are thought to have  saved lives 

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

No, I was thinking of the situation in English where "should have" can be interpreted differently depending on the context. If you know something did not happen you're probably making a criticism. But if you have no reason not to believe that something happened, then your expectation is still that it did happen.

e.g. "fortunately the alerts that were issued earlier should have saved some lives"

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Alan, 

Fortunately changes the meaning completely but in French you would say - 

Heureusement les alertes devraient avoir sauvé…
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Perhaps this ambiguity doesn't exist in French then. 

I think the article mentioned is the one from "News in Slow French" described here:

Nous commencerons la première partie de notre émission par une discussion sur les inondations dévastatrices en Allemagne, en Belgique et dans d’autres pays d’Europe et sur le nombre élevé de victimes malgré les alertes qui avaient été lancées.

I assume then that the point of the article is that the alerts (for whatever reason) were not successful in saving lives.

Subtlety in meaning of, say, ils auraient dû+ infinitive

I have come across uses of le conditionnel passé avec devoir where the meaning appears to lean more towards “would have” than “should have”.  Par exemple “les alertes auraient dû sauver des vies”, by the context of the article could have been interpreted as a praise of the alert system as opposed to criticising the fact that the alert system did not do its job. Alternatively, it could mean criticism of people for not taking notice of the alerts. So, does “ils auraient dû + infinitive” always mean “should have”, or is there some subtle shading of meaning? 

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