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J’aurais dû – How to say “I should have” in French

J’aurais dû – How to say “I should have” in French

Regrets – we all have them. Today we’ll learn how to express a regret in French. J’aurais dû translates to “I should have”. For example, J’aurais dû apprendre le français (I should have learned French). We’ll do a very brief grammatical explanation then look at some practical sample sentences.

J’aurais dû

I should have

J'aurais dû = I should have in French

I should have in French

Two-second grammatical explanation

In French, “j’ai dû” (I had to) is the passé composé of the verb devoir (must, to have to) and means “I had to”.

When we change j’ai to j’aurais we get the past conditional: j’aurais dû (I should have). For example, j’aurais acheter (I should have bought) and je n’aurais pas acheter (I shouldn’t have bought).

J’aurais dû I should have
Tu aurais dû You should have (singular, informal)
Il, elle aurait dû He, she should have
Nous aurions dû We should have (plural, formal)
Ils, elles auraient dû They should have

Example sentences

This first example sentence shows how to express a positve regret: I should have _ed.

J’aurais dû commander le steak. Ça a l’air délicieux !

I should have ordered the steak. It looks delicious!

To express a negative regret, wrap ne…pas around the auxiliary verb (aurais in this case). Thus, “je n’aurais pas dû + infinitive” means “I shouldn’t have _ed.”

Je n’aurais pas dû vendre le vélo !

I shouldn’t have sold the bike!

You can also use this structure to express a reprimand: “You should have _ed!”.

Vous auriez dû me téléphoner plus tôt !

You should have called me earlier!


Et voilà ! Now you know how to use j’aurais dû (I should have) in French! Now check out our related lesson covering je devrais (I should).

Je n'aurais pas du dire ca ! I shouldn't have said that!
Je n’aurais pas dû dire ça ! I shouldn’t have said that!

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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