How to sound more fluent saying “could have”, “should have” etc

Let’s learn about pronouncing modal verbs such as could, should + “have” when talking about past events.

Some of the most common ones are:
  • could have
  • should have
  • may have
  • must have

In this example there are 5 words:

You could have told us.

In writing each of these words look equally “important”. However, in speaking they receive a different amount of stress.

The result is that there will be fewer units needed to build the sentence. In this case I would use 2 blocks:

You could have

told us.

There is a difference in word stress intensity in these 5 words. Two blocks are created because they each have a “stressed” word in them: COULD and TOLD.

The bigger font size represents how these words sound louder and clearer in this sentence, while the others sound softer.

You could have
told us.

Think in terms of two blocks rather than five individual words, and you will sound more fluent and easy to understand when saying these modal verb structures.

To hear how this actually works in practise, check out the video:

Observe the way “have” is pronounced when linked to could, should. As you can hear, it is not full and it is not accentuated. 

In summary: the modal verbs “could” and “should” sound louder and clearer, while “have” is pronounced with lower intensity and is linked to “could”, “should” etc.

When saying this sentence in everyday spoken English, you get something like this:

You couldhave toldus.

In summary: blocks are created based on a “stressed” word (here could and told) The other words will sound softer, and will be linked to these words.

Watch my video tutorial to hear how this works with other modal verbs such as should, may and must.

Scroll to Top