"Should" vs "Should have"

Hi there, I have a question regarding use of "should have" and "should". Can you please tell me which one is correct in the following context?

  1. Ram slapped a man who was molesting a woman. He did what he should have done.
  2. Ram slapped a man who was molesting a woman. He did what he should do.


I think both are correct. Please explain.

Original Post
subhajit123 posted:
  1. Ram slapped a man who was molesting a woman. He did what he should have done.
  2. Ram slapped a man who was molesting a woman. He did what he should do.

I think both are correct. Please explain.

Hi, Subhajit: Only your first example works, and I would naturally elide "done": "He did what he should have." (In other contexts, you could use "He did what he was supposed to (do)", but "(be) supposed to" doesn't work well in your particular examples, because Ram wasn't exactly adhering to any particular duty of his.) Your second example does not work, but it could be fixed by changing "he" to the generic "one": "He did what one should do (in such circumstances)." That sentence expresses that he acted according to a universal duty. Another, somewhat old-fashioned formulation is "He didn't do anything untoward."

subhajit123 posted:

Can I also say "He did what one should have done."? 

Hi, Subhajit: That one doesn't work so well, unfortunately. I think what you mean to convey by that sentence is what the following sentence actually expresses: "He did what any decent person would have done." And that sentence can have either "would have done" or "would do." With "would have done," the sense is "would have done in his shoes." With "would do" ("He did what any decent person would do"), the sense is "would do in such circumstances."

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