Saturday, December 29

Shouldn't Have and Should Have

image courtesy of stock.xchng

Now that 2012 is almost behind us and 2013 is smiling ahead, it’s the best time for us to learn the Modal Verbs shouldn’t have” and “should have.”

But before we talk about them, first we should be perfectly clear about the base Modal Verbshould.”

How Strong is “Should”?

Some learners are confused about the real meaning or strength of “should” as a Modal Verb. They think that “should” is similar to “have to” or “must.”

This isn’t true. As a matter of fact, if you try to arrange the different Modals according to strength, this is what you’ll have:

As you can see from our image above, “should” is just a middle-level Modal. It’s not as high or strong as “must” or “have to.”

This means that when you use “must” and “have to,” you’re usually talking about a duty or obligation. You don’t have a choice and in fact you’re sometimes forced to do something.


Everyone has to pay taxes.

You must wear a helmet.

On the other hand, if you use “should,” you’re just expressing a suggestion (recommendation), advice, or opinion. It’s good for the listener to take your advice and do as you say. But in the end, it’s still the listener’s choice.

Compare these with our examples above:

You should learn English with Hollywood movies.

The government should lower taxes.

The Past Tense of Modals

Now, in order to learn “shouldn’t have” and “should have,” we have to know how to change Modal Verbs to the Past Tense.

Take a look:

Modals (Present)
Have to

Had to
Had to /
Must have


Would have

Should have


Could have
May /
May have /
Might have

Please don’t be confused. Even though most of the Past Tenses of the Modals look like the Present Perfect (Have p.p.), they are perfectly different from each other.

Just remember that these structures:

Must have + p.p.

Would have + p.p.

Should have + p.p.

Could have + p.p.

May have + p.p.

Might have + p.p.

they are all Past Tenses – the Past Tense of Modals – and they are not Present Perfect even though their structure looks the same.

Modal Review

If you want a review on Modals, please check out these other posts:

The Meaning of “Shouldn’t Have”

First, “shouldn’t have.”

Right now let me tell you that “shouldn’t have” is what I call the Modal of Regret.

Do you know what regret is?

Regret is the bad feeling that you have after you make a mistake. You do or say something wrong and you wish that you hadn’t done so. You want to change the result or what happened.


I shouldn’t have watched DVDs late last night. Now I feel sleepy.

I shouldn’t have driven to work. Now I’m stuck in traffic.

I shouldn’t have said all those bad words to my friend. I lost my temper.

As you can see from our examples, “shouldn’t have” is a very useful expression to practice. You can use it to talk about things or actions that you feel sorry or sad about. In your everyday life, there are many situations like these. They don't have to be big and important situations, they are also small and casual ones. 

Moreover, as you say goodbye to the old year, I’m sure there are some decisions or things that you regret.


I shouldn’t have fought with my brother.

I shouldn’t have spent too much (money) on gadgets*.

*cellphone, camera etc.  

I shouldn’t have eaten too much cake.

Be Positive!

Although “shouldn’t have” and the feeling of regret are originally negative, I want you to think positive when you make your example sentences this coming new year. As you welcome year 2013, let your “shouldn’t have” sentences guide you towards making better decisions. In short, learn from your mistakes, move on, and don’t look back. 


Next, “Should Have”

But wait! We’re not finished yet.

There’s another kind of regret that’s not about making a mistake or doing the wrong thing. Instead, this kind of regret is because of not doing anything.

There’s also this kind of bad feeling when you had the chance or good opportunity to do or say something, but you didn’t take it. Maybe because you were shy or afraid or you worried too much.

For many people, this kind of regret is in fact more common.


I should have told him / her about my feelings.

I should have studied English hard when I was in high school.

I should have bought that dress in the mall.

Again, this New Year’s Day, try and make your example sentences with the “should haveModal as well.


I should have stuck to my diet.

I should have quit smoking like Edward.

I should have gone back to school.


Which kind of regret is more common for you? The one caused by mistakes (shouldn’t have) or missed opportunities (should have)?

Whatever regrets you have, now is the right time to evaluate your life, all your past decisions. Look at yourself carefully and know which results happened because of which actions, which situations you are in now because of which choices.

If you do this, you’ll get a big and clear picture of what you want for the next year, and you’ll be able to make a map or a plan that you can follow.

Your regrets (shouldn't have and should have) can make you a stronger and better person.

Happy New Year!!

Keep on learning !

Wednesday, December 26

Scrooge and Grinch

Are you a scrooge? Or are you a grinch?

Have you heard either of these 2 words?

First, Scrooge...

A “scrooge” is a person who hates spending money. This means that even though he has enough, he's not generous, and he uses or spends as little money as possible. It might also mean that he’s selfish.

If you want positive words, you'd better say "economical" (Adjective) or "thrifty" (Adjective).  

On the other hand, similar words to "scrooge" are “miser” (Noun) and “stingy” (Adjective). These are all negative. 


My grandfather is such a scrooge / miser.

My company is too stingy to give me a bonus.

You might know somebody around you who's a scrooge or a miser. And if anybody uses the word “stingy” for you, now you know what it means.

The word “scrooge” is especially useful this Christmas season. Aside from the meaning of this word, what’s interesting is its history.

The History of “Scrooge”

This word first came to be used around 1899. It came from the classic story “The Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

The main character of The Christmas Carol was an old man by the name of Ebenezer Scrooge. Ebenezer Scrooge was a mean and bitter man who lived during Victorian era London. He hated Christmas and its warm spirit.

Scrooge is flying in this poster.
copyright: Walt Disney Pictures 

But after he was visited by 3 ghosts, his personality changed and he became a kinder and more generous person.

The Christmas Carol

Have you read the great novella “The Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens? If you haven’t, you should. Especially around Christmas time.

This book should be part of your basic reading list. Or, if you prefer, there are so many different adaptations of this story; from stage-plays to movies.

If you enjoy the modern customs of Christmas: family gathering, Christmas food and drink, and the general spirit of giving, you should know that Charles Dickens’ book helped make all of these.

The original book “The Christmas Carol” was written by Charles Dickens from October to the beginning of December, 1843. At that time, the British people were experiencing nostalgia* for their forgotten Christmas traditions, and new customs such as the Christmas tree and greeting cards were just starting.

*nostalgia = this means that they miss or they want to bring back their traditions

The Christmas Carol was so successful that it helped shape the Western version of Christmas that's familiar to us today.

Scrooge the Duck

There have been so many different versions of Charles Dickens’ famous character, Ebenezer Scrooge, whether live action or animated. 

In fact, the latest 3D movie adaptation of The Christmas Carol stars Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge (see the poster above).

Another character of Disney was named after Ebenezer Scrooge. Walt Disney's character is a talking duck called Uncle Scrooge (the uncle of Donald Duck). In the beginning, Uncle Scrooge was greedy for money like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Uncle Scrooge was also known for his signature action: diving into money.

copyright: Disney Comics

Next, the Grinch...

The second word that has entered the English language from a book is “grinch.”

A “grinch” means a person who is mean, unfriendly, and stops other people from having fun.

This word was originally the name of the bad guy in the children’s story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” by author and cartoonist  Dr. Seuss.

Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch hated Christmas. He has also appeared plenty of times on stage and on TV; as an animated character or even a puppet and a video-game character. But the version that you probably know was also performed by Jim Carrey in 2000.

copyright: Imagine Entertainment

Dr.Seuss’ character “The Grinch” was likely influenced by Charles Dickens’ “Scrooge”. 

In sum, 2 names came from stories about Christmas, then they became words in the English language. Now their meanings have changed and gone beyond their original Christmas meanings. 

Geseende Kerfees!
С Рождеством!
Feliz Navidad! 
God Jul! 
Sheng Dan Jie Kuai Le! 
Merry Christmas! 

Keep on learning !

Sunday, December 23

All I Want for Christmas

Christmas is in the air. Christmas is just around the corner. Both of these sentences can express the fact that Christmas Day is exactly just 2 days away.

Are you excited? ;-)

Today in Cool Elf, in celebration of the Yuletide (Christmas) season, we’re going to learn a song that’s getting popular again these days. This song is titled “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

image courtesy of stock.xchng

If you’re lucky, you just might hear this song playing somewhere near you -- in the mall, in the taxi, as part of a performance, etc. This song is one of the most famous Christmas songs around.

Before we go to the meaning of the words of this song, let’s first talk about the story behind it...

A Brief History

The song was written by American singer Mariah Carey together with songwriter Walter Afanasieff. It was released in 1994. Since then, this song has been performed by Mariah Carey countless of times on TV and live on tours. Aside from her, many other artists including Justin Bieber and Michael Buble have made different versions of it.

As a single, this song has been a chart-topper in different countries all over the world. The UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph considers it the most popular Christmas song of the decade.


Here’s a recording of the song from Youtube:


Now here are the very easy words in the chorus of the song. And if you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you can read all the lyrics: 

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you


The meaning of the song is simple enough. The situation is that of someone who doesn’t care about Christmas presents or the bright decorations of the holidays. All she wants for Christmas is to spend time together with her lover.



But wait! Some of you must be getting confused about the usage of the word “all” in the song.

Most learners are familiar with the meaning of the word “all” as “every member, thing, or person.”


All the countries

All my friends

All their books

This is why when we use them in complete sentences, we need plural Verbs. (At least in the case of Countable Nouns.)


All the countries in the world are beautiful.

All my friends go skiing every winter.

All their books were wet.

So, the sentence “All I want for Christmas is you” might seem a bit strange to you. 

From this day on, you should remember another meaning of the word “all.”

Sometimes “all” also means “the only thing or things.”

For example, if you say:

All I ate for breakfast is a piece of toast.

This means that the only thing you ate is a piece of bread. This is why you might be hungry at the moment because your breakfast wasn’t enough.

In the sentence, the word “all” is being used before an Adjective Clause. Like this:

All (that) I ate for breakfast is a piece of toast. = The only thing that I ate for breakfast is a piece of toast.

Another good example is the title of the Beatles song: All you need is love.

All (that) you need is love. = The only thing that you need is love.

So, finally, in our example,

All (that) I want for Christmas is you. = The only thing I want for Christmas is you.

Singular or Plural?

When we use “all” with the meaning of “the only thing or things,” it is singular and takes a singular Verb.


All I know is that I need to study English.

All I see is broken toys.
( = The only things that I see are broken toys.)

Complete Song

Here are all the words/ lyrics of the song:

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There's just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is...

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There's just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I don't need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won't make me happy
With a toy on Christmas day
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is you
You baby

I won't ask for much this Christmas
I don't even wish for snow
I'm just gonna keep on waiting
Underneath the mistletoe
I won't make a list and send it
To the North Pole for Saint Nick
I won't even stay awake to
Hear those magic reindeers click
'Cause I just want you here tonight
Holding on to me so tight
What more can I do
Baby all I want for Christmas is you
Ooh baby
All the lights are shining
So brightly everywhere
And the sound of children's
Laughter fills the air
And everyone is singing
I hear those sleigh bells ringing
Santa won't you bring me the one I really need
Won't you please bring my baby to me...

Oh I don't want a lot for Christmas
This is all I'm asking for
I just want to see my baby
Standing right outside my door
Oh I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
Baby all I want for Christmas is...

All I want for Christmas is you... baby 
(repeat and fade)

More Christmas Songs

If you’d like to learn more Christmas songs for this special season, here are some of my recommendations:

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Keep on learning !

Any Questions?

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