"Usted no debió escribir eso."

Translation:You should not have written that.

August 1, 2013



Why is "You did not have to write that" incorrect?

August 1, 2013


It's technically grammatically correct, but it's incorrect because it has a completely different meaning. debió is the past tense which is what "have written" means in English, even though "have written" is the past perfect tense. You need to approximate tenses sometimes because Spanish has an extra tense that doesn't exist in English.

This only seems difficult because English grammar is clutzy and awkward compared to Spanish so in direct translations you need to change the tense of the verbs in English sometimes. Once I realized this it made this unit sooo much easier.

TL;DR: Don't think in English, think what the sentence means in Spanish. THEN compose your English sentence independent of the literal translation.

November 1, 2013


I know this is all old, but I want to clarify on Kortaggio's post for other's sake, because it's both prominent and ambiguous. The preterite deber + infinitive construction is used to express disapproval with something that really shouldn't have been done -- as in, it was bad that it was done at all. "You did not have to/need to write that" may be a perfect grammatical English translation (preterite --> preterite), but it gets the level of force wrong. It's too neutral, or even nice, the sort of thing you'd say to someone who did something needlessly. In spanish, this sense is conveyed by the preterite deber + haber + participle, which would give us "Usted no debió haber escrito eso."

So, yeah, in sum, English uses the preterite ("You didn't need to") to be nice, and the present perfect ("You shouldn't have") to be disapporiving. In Spanish, on the other hand, the pretertite ("No debió") is disapproving, and this other weird construction ("Debió haber + participle) is nice.

Like Kortaggio said, it's best to learn to think in Spanish, and not in English in Spanish!

May 14, 2015


Sorry, I am a native Spanish language speacker, and I have to say you are right and you are wrong, both. Both tense "pretérito perfecto" (haber escrito = have written) and "preterito indefinido (escribió = wrote, not constructed with the auxiliar verb "to have") are right. The restriction refers the negative verb form "you should not" (no debió, which indicate it is the "indefinido" tense). Then, if you continue with "haber escrito" (have written), or with "escribir" (write), there are a significative difference between them, "haber escrito" means that the action took place in a closer time ago than "escribir" ("haber" and "escribir" in infinitive as it is a subordinate phrase of the verb "should") which refers the action took place in a much longer time ago. Both are equaly disapproving. I beg your perdon for my poor English, but I am here to learn it better. I hope I had expressed myself clearly.

August 21, 2017


Maria- tu ingles es mucho mejor que mi espanol!. Gracias por tu explinacion! Muy bueno trabajo!

October 15, 2017


I think the English is fine but I do not begin to understand this with examples so I can recognize it and repeat it. But now i know there is a huge gap that confused me for a reason. And I can study it.

February 28, 2018


Gracias por explicar esto. Un amigo mio argentino me lo trató de explicar, pero él no sabía cómo decirlo en una manera que pude entender. Y tu inglés es muchisimo mejor que mi español. :-)

March 27, 2018


You've articulated this perfectly, the difference in tenses is the result of the intention behind the tone of the sentence, the tone of the original sentence is disapproving so the translation should also be disapproving.

May 15, 2015


Then, how to say "You did not have to write that"?

November 4, 2013


No tuviste que escribir eso! (tu form)... No tuvo que... (usted form)

November 10, 2013


Both these forms are used to talk about past events, but there is sometimes a difference in use. When we say that someone should not have done something, it means that they did it, but it was not desirable. Didn't have to is also sometimes used in this way but it's not case in this example:

Example about should not have:

Vendedor: Ya envié la encomienda, escribí en su envoltorio lo que contiene, así que no tendré problemas más adelante con la aduana.

Secretario de la agencia de envíos: Usted no debío escribir eso, ya no es necesario porque desde hace dos meses esa información se envía por correo electrónico.

But we also use didn't have to say that something was not necessary under circumstances where it was not done:

Example about did not have to:

Vendedor: Ya envié la encomienda pero sin escribir en su envoltorio lo que contiene, ¿cree que tendré problemas más adelante con la aduana?

Secretario de la agencia de envíos: Claro que no, usted no tenía que escribir eso, ya no es necesario porque desde hace dos meses esa información se envía por correo por correo electrónico.


Paquete que se envía por medio de un servicio de transporte.






November 11, 2017


I'm so confused. When does 'deber' mean 'must' and when does it mean 'should'?

This is just the third person past tense of 'deber', right? So why doesn't it say 'you didn't have to write that'? Or if you prefer, 'you didn't [non-existent past tense of 'must'] write that'.

June 10, 2014


In the present tense such as debe, it means must. The conditional debería means should. The past tense preterit such as debió should have (or should not have in this case).

April 25, 2018


I find this one very confusing and it's not due to a supposedly weird English grammar logic, since my native language is actually Portuguese. :-) If I had gotten the English sentence "you shouldn't have written that" I would've translated it as "usted no debería haber escrito eso".

After some research, it seems they're both the same. Just found an article that says, after the soccer match was over and Spain had lost, that "Casillas no debió jugar" (headline) and that "Casillas no debería haber jugado" (on the text).

I guess nobody will ever hear me say the first one, but I get its meaning of it a bit better now. I think...

August 18, 2014


Why doesn't «You shouldn't write that» work?

March 1, 2014


My best guess here is that your sentence conveys the present tense, and the sentence here is in the past tense. You should not have written that - is past tense, and debió is past tense. Hope that helps.

March 3, 2014


I just don't understand the preterite tense of "deber". There is no simple past tense of "must" in English.

January 10, 2017


Like the verb "ought," "must" is also a defective verb. English defective verbs don't have tense. Another way of putting it is that they (must AND ought) can be used with verbs of any other tense. If you are looking for a correct shortcut, just translate any tense of "deber" as "ought." Also, remember that "ought" is used for obligations that are optional while "must" is used for obligations that are mandatory.

December 18, 2017


Linda, thank you for this really clear summary.

August 22, 2018


I agree, the tense doesn't yet exist for me. Until I can think like a spanish speaker, I likely will never use debió. I´m think I would need to use haber, ´Usted no hubiera debido escribir eso´. Correct? Although the given solution sounds much better...maybe the tense just came into being.

September 13, 2019


I entered "You weren't supposed to write that," trying to keep it in preterite, and was rejected. Thoughts?

September 12, 2014


@Theo1289 and jlpettersson.

The phrase "you should (not) have ..." is what is called a "Modal Perfect Structure". Modal verbs do not contain Tense, they are called modal because they convey MODALITY or meaning.

As modal verbs do not contain tense the only way to position them in time is to use another aspect structure. This structure, for English, is the perfect structure.

Thus the modal perfect structure used allows a reflection on the past.

The phrase "you should (not) write" also contains a modal BUT is contains a different aspect structure, here simple. Modal simple structure do NOT offer a reflection on the past.

Thus, don't confuse modality with tense and tense with aspect.

January 19, 2016


Another definition of "modal" is "mood." IMO, it is misleading to define "modality" as "meaning" because the mood is what the speaker is FEELING about the meaning. Modal verbs in English are: do, can, may, could, might, will, would, shall, should, ought, and must.

Some examples: I like cake. (Statement of fact of my liking cake) I DO like cake. (I am corrrecting someone who said I didn't or I'm being emphatic) I CAN/MAY like cake. (Statement that my liking of cake varies according to unknown factors) I COULD/MIGHT like cake. (Statement that at least one specific factor influences when I like cake) I WILL like cake. (Statement that I know I will like cake in the future. ALTERNATIVELY, statement that I will force myself to like cake in the future) I WOULD like cake. (Statement that I know I will like cake if a condition is met in the future. ALTERNATELY, statement that I liked cake in the past when a condition was met) I SHALL like cake (Statement that I have made a choice to like cake) I SHOULD like cake. (Statement of prediction or voluntary obligation) I OUGHT to like cake. (Statement that I know that I should like cake, whether or not I do or don't) I MUST like cake. (Some unknown thing compels me to like cake)

December 18, 2017


Linda, that is brilliant.

February 28, 2018


There is no verb that means "to suppose" in the sentence to be translated. That's why Theo1289's answer was rejected.

December 18, 2017


My thoughts about this: 1. ES - "Usted no debió escribir eso" 1. EN - "You should not write that" 2. ES - "Usted no debería haber escrito eso" 2. EN - "You should not have written that"

March 5, 2016


I am so confused by this sentence.

February 2, 2015


why isnt this "usted no debía haber escrito eso" Whats the difference?

September 23, 2013


I think that this sentence is a single action not a undefined amount of time so "debia" being the imperfect form shouldn't be used. The preterite is correct "debió."

October 5, 2013


but shouldn't "haber" be in there somewhere if the sentence is "should not HAVE written ...." ie no debio haber escrito.... Plus, I had thought that "deberia" ie conditional, meant "should"....

January 10, 2015


What about "you must not have written that" (implying that someone else did)? Otherwise, how was I supposed to know deber meant only "should" and not "must"?

January 20, 2015


Seriously, they don't know "oughtn't". smh

December 5, 2015


I wrote "You shouldn't have written that" and my answer wasn't accepted. Is there any difference or it's just a system error?

November 25, 2016


Why is "You should have not written that" marked as incorrect?

June 12, 2017


"You did not have to write that" can totally mean you should have have written that. It should be accepted. If you want the English to state it in a stronger tone, make it stronger in Spanish.

December 2, 2017


Your example, Jihel5, has a duplication of the word "have." I assume you meant that "you should not have written that" is the same as "you should not write that."

December 18, 2017


why is "you should not write that" wrong?

September 8, 2018


so how would one translate this "usted no deberia escribir eso"; I would transalate it as "you shouldn't have written that"

November 11, 2014


Usted no debería haber escrito eso.. is it right?

January 25, 2015


I think its simply that there is no other way to say "shouldnt" in the past tense without saying "have" ...you shouldnt have written that...there is no other way to say it, which is probably why both debió haber escrito and debio ecribir are both correct.

March 24, 2016


"you weren't supposed to to write that" sounds right to me too but it's not accepted

May 30, 2016


Would someone care to explain to me the difference between these 3 sentences?

-Usted no debió escribir eso. -Usted no debía escribir eso. -Usted no debería escribir eso.

I think I still don't quite understand. For some reason the first one sounds kinda odd to my ears, in spite of my 1st language being Portuguese, which supposedly has a similar grammar structure to that of Spanish.

June 22, 2016


Why does the robot voice sound like there is an extra syllable between "Usted" and "no" - it sounds like "Usted-e no...". ?

June 23, 2016


it's so funny that I learn Spanish using English... That is the reason for the majority of my mistakes... lol...

May 22, 2017


would "You must not write that" be wrong?

June 14, 2017


"You should not have written that" is "Usted no debión HABER ESCRITO eso". "Usted no debió escribir eso" is "You should not write that", It is not the same in Spanish languaje, there is a difference among both verbal tense, the perfect past tense (with the auxiliar verb to have) indicates the action has taken place not a long time ago, meanwhile the past tense (pretérito indefinido) (without the auxiliar verb to have) indicates the action took place a much longer time ago. So, "you should not have written that" is not a good translation of the original phrase. There is a difference of meaning in Spanis language.

August 21, 2017


Shouldnt and should not are equal?

October 18, 2017


"Shouldn't" is one word that has the same meaning as these two words: should not. That is, "shouldn't and "should not" can be used interchangeably. However, "shouldn't" is usually used orally and/or informally, while "should not" is more formal and used when one is writing.

December 18, 2017


i don't see why debió cant be must have not

November 12, 2017


estelle0 Could one write"Tu no debias haber escrito eso"? Note-sorry I don't have the accents on my keyboard.

December 9, 2017


English is too poor to learn a complexe language as spanish. I will probably try to relearn spanish through french which is from far a more complete language.

January 28, 2018


very confusing: since when does escribir mean have written??

July 26, 2018


Hey Carol870492. The perfect-looking "have" here actually comes from the fact that "debió" is preterite, rather than from the infinitive itself, because "should/ought" in the past tense becomes "you should have" and in English that requires "written" to follow it, not "to write", so it's really the fact that the sequence of tenses requires it that way, not that "escribir" suddenly means something entirely new.

July 27, 2018


What's the point of getting it right, just because DUO says that's the answer, if you don't understand why it's right?

July 26, 2018


I don't understand where the "have" is in escribir.

August 7, 2018


No entiendo por qué en esta lección se presentan los ejercicios en pasado y en la traducción se mezclan el pasado y el presente perfecto. La traducción mas adecuada sería "usted no debería haber escrito eso".

July 12, 2019
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