Should” is translated into Italian with the present conditional of the verb dovere.

This is the conjugation of “should” in Italian.

SubjectConjugationEnglish Translation
iodovreiI should
tudovrestiyou should
lui/leidovrebbehe/she should
noidovremmowe should
voidovresteyou should (plural)
lorodovrebberothey should

Just like in English, “should” always triggers the use of the infinitive tense (the unconjugated verb).  In other words, the various forms of dovrei are always followed by an infinitive, in Italian.

For example:

dovrei mangiareI should eat
dovresti guidareYou should drive
dovrebbe pagareShe should pay
dovremmo correreWe should run
dovreste cucinareYou should cook
dovrebbero parlareThey should speak

To make the negative form of “should”, should not/shouldn’t, it’s sufficient to place a “non” before the different forms of dovrei. 

ionon dovreiI shouldn’t
tunon dovrestiyou shouldn’t
lui/leinon dovrebbehe/she shouldn’t
noinon dovremmowe shouldn’t
voinon dovresteyou shouldn’t (plural)
loronon dovrebberothey shouldn’t

This form of the conditional is used especially to give a piece of advice or a recommendation to someone.

  • dovresti studiare di più – you should study more
  • non dovresti fumare così tanto – you shound’t smoke so much

How to say “should have done”

To say that you should have done something in Italian, you need to use the past conditional of the verb dovere, which is:

ItalianEnglish
avrei dovuto + infinitiveI should have + past participle (generic)
sarei dovuto/a + infinitiveI should have + past participle (gender specific)

This is a compound form, and so the choice of the correct auxiliary (essere vs. avere) depends on the nature of the verb that follows “dovuto.”

If the verb following is an intransitive verb, we’ll use the auxiliary essere and make sure that the participle dovuto agrees with the gender and number of the subject:

for example: 

sarei dovuto andareI should have gone (masculine)
sarei dovuta andareI should have gone (feminine)
saremmo dovuti andareWe should have gone (masculine plural)
saremmo dovute andareWe should have gone (feminine plural)

If the verbs that follows “dovuto” is a transitive verb, and so, to be conjugated with the avere auxiliary, the participle dovuto stays the same.

For example 

  • avrei dovuto fare – I should have done 
  • avremmo dovuto fare – we should have done

More examples using ‘should do something’ or ‘should have done something’ in Italian:

Present Tense:

Dovrei giocare a tennisI should play tennis
Dovremmo iniziare un nuovo blogWe should start a new blog
Dovresti allenarti più spessoYou should exercise more often
Non dovrebbe andare a lavoro perché è malataShe shouldn’t go to work because she is sick
Non dovremmo spendere così tanti soldiWe shouldn’t spend so much money
Dovreste investire soldi in quest’aziendaYou should invest money in this company

Past Tense:

Avrei dovuto giocare a tennisI should have played tennis
Avremmo dovuto iniziare un nuovo blogWe should have started a new blog
Avresti dovuto allenarti più spessoYou should have exercised more often
Non sarebbe dovuta andare a lavoro perché è malataShe shouldn’t have gone to work because she is sick
Non avremmo dovuto spendere così tanti soldiWe shouldn’t have spent so much money
Avreste dovuto investire soldi in quest’aziendaYou should have invested money in this company

About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I’m Serena!

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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