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    • Join Date: Jul 2005
    • Posts: 928
    #1

    should have been

    Hello,

    could you please tell me whether the following sentence:

    The crime should have been committed by an unknown offender.

    means:

    1) that we assume that it was committed by an unknown offender
    2) that the unknown offender should have committed the crime but did not
    3) both

    And if 1) is not correct, how do I have to modify the sentence? (e.g. the crime is supposed to have been committed by an unknown offender?)

    Thank you very much.

    Hanka

  1. #2

    Re: should have been

    "The crime should have been committed by an unknown offender."

    means roughly what you describe in 2), but I prefer to put it like this (i.e. the meaning is): "it would have been better if an unknown offender had committed the crime, but instead the crime was committed by someone known"

    If you want to convey the meaning described in 1), you should rephrase like this: "this crime must have been committed by an unknown offender"


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
    • Posts: 3,059
    #3

    Re: should have been

    Hanka: Hello, could you please tell me whether the following sentence:

    The crime should have been committed by an unknown offender.
    means:
    1) that we assume that it was committed by an unknown offender
    2) that the unknown offender should have committed the crime but did not


    Without a great deal more context, Hanka, #1 could hardly have this meaning. The most likely modal meaning is #2 but even here the sentence sounds strange.

    'should' is epistemically equal to 'likely/probably'. Epistemically stronger; 'very likely/very probably'. Mariner, these, 'should' and 'probably/likely', are weaker than epistemic 'must'.

    Here's what I think the problem is. Though they are equal epistemically, we don't use 'should' without some personal knowledge or some "expert" knowledge of the subject at hand..

    I can remark on my mother's whereabouts because I'm familiar with here goings and comings but others who are less "expert" wrt this knowledge, but with the same degree of epistemic certainty, will remark with a 'probably/likely {___}'.


    And if 1) is not correct, how do I have to modify the sentence? (e.g. the crime is supposed to have been committed by an unknown offender?)

    It's not that it's incorrect. It's just not natural in the given and limited context for the reason enunciated. To get the same level of certainty, switch from '[should have been]' to 'probably/likely'.

    The crime probably/likely was committed by an unknown offender.

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