I should have been...

So I got corrected today for expessing “I should have been...” in French as “je devrais être...” rather than “je aurait dû être...” Then we entered a discussion on how to translate “I should have been” into Latin and the other Romance languages. In English, the focus on “I should have been” is an obligation plus negation: “I should have been, which I was not.”

How is this expressed in Latin? “oportuit/oportebat me esse”? This appears to be a simple past of obligation, so I can’t imagine “oportuit me fuisse.” Will a subjunctive clause emphasize the aspect of negation as in “oportuit ut essem” or “oportet me fuisse”? Or should I just say “oportet me fuisse, sed non fui.”

How is this expressed in Spanish/Portuguese? My first sense was “debía/devia ser” or “debría/deveria ser” depending on the language, but either way I can’t get the “negation” part across.


Civis Illustris
me oportuit esse or debui esse. Late writers use oportere with ut, but it is not very common.


Staff member
Latin has no “conditional pass” as in “aurait d
Latin uses the subjunctive in many of the contexts where French uses the conditional, but with verbs of possibility and obligation (possum, debeo, oportet, etc.) it often sticks with the indicative, the logic of this being that the possibility or obligation was real even if the thing didn't get done.