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Third Conditional - Shoulda Woulda Coulda

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An activity using the song ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda’ by Beverly Knight,
to revise/practise ‘should have’, ‘would have’, ‘could have’, and the Third Conditional

INTERMEDIATE students and above

This is a nice way to bring a bit of variety into the classroom when teaching conditionals. Teenagers especially enjoy learning the authentic English found in songs, such as the contracted forms ‘gottta’, ‘gonna’ etc which they can’t find in the dictionary.

Teach/review should have, could have, would have, and ‘I wish’, ‘I wonder’, ‘I regret’ etc.

Write the song title ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda’ on the board and explain the informal shortened form of the words if necessary. You could discuss pronunciation here, e.g. the full ‘should have’ form, the normal spoken form ‘should’ve’, and the very informal ‘shoulda’ pronunciation.

Elicit ideas about possible song content, i.e. regrets.

Listen to the song, pausing every few lines, and have the students write down all the words/phrases they can hear. Have them share their ideas and try to put some of the lines together. Write some lines on the board as they figure them out, so they are easier to pick out on the next listening. This is particularly useful with the lines from the chorus, which are repeated several times during the song.

Discuss how words flow together, as problems arise. My students, for example, were convinced they heard the word ‘never’, which actually came from ‘and every…’, due to the dropping of the ‘d’ sound from ‘and’ in pronunciation.

Also, discuss/explain the contracted forms often used in songs, such as ‘gotta’ (got to), ‘gonna’ (going to), ‘coz’/’cause’ (because), ‘til’ (until).

Listen to the song again, when some of the lines are on the board, and see how much more they can pick out. Obviously, it’s challenging, so reassure them that you don’t expect them to get everything!

Next, give them the text of the song lyrics, and go through it together, explaining any new words (‘asunder’, ‘forsake’, etc).

Listen to the song a final time, reading the lyrics. Discuss any problems or interesting points of pronunciation.

Does the singer have any regrets? Would she change things, if she could? (See ‘I know I’m right where I belong’ etc)

Next, introduce or revise the third conditional. When the students are happy with the various ‘if’ clauses and conditional clauses, have them look at the song lyrics again and try to find the grammatical mistake that relates to the conditional form (‘Fool if I would now forsake’, should be ‘Fool if I now forsook’).

You could also have them recreate the part of the sentence which is implied but missing in the lyrics – ‘I would be a fool if I now forsook the opportunities of fate’.

I hope it works for you – I tried this with a small group of young-ish professional adults and they enjoyed the novelty of it, though the song itself wasn’t exactly to all of their tastes!

from Samantha, teaching in Košice, Slovak Republic

The lyrics are here...

BEVERLY KNIGHT
Shoulda Woulda Coulda
Written By Knight/Wiseman

People say that together we were both sides of the same coin
That we would shine like Venus in a clear night sky
We thought our love could overcome the circumstances
But my ambition wouldn't allow for compromise

I could see in the distance all the dreams that were clear to me
Every choice that I had to make left you on your own
Somehow the road we started down had split asunder
Too late to realise how far apart we'd grown

How I wish I, wish I'd done a little bit more
Now " Shoulda woulda coulda" means I'm out of time
Coz "Shoulda woulda coulda" can't change your mind
And I wonder, wonder, wonder what I'm gonna do
"Shoulda woulda coulda" are the last words of a fool

People ask how it feels to live the kind of life others dream about
I tell them everybody gotta face the highs and the lows
And in my life there's a love I put aside, coz I was busy loving something else
So for every little thing you hold on to, you've gotta let something else go

How I wish I, wish I'd done a little bit more
Now " Shoulda woulda coulda" means I'm out of time
Coz "Shoulda woulda coulda" can't change your mind
And I wonder, wonder, wonder what I'm gonna do
"Shoulda woulda coulda" are the last words of a…

Fool if I would now forsake the opportunities of fate
I know I'm right where I belong
But sometimes when I'm not that strong…

I wish I, wish I'd done a little bit more
Now " Shoulda woulda coulda" means I'm out of time
Coz "Shoulda woulda coulda" can't change your mind
And I wonder, wonder, wonder what I'm gonna do
"Shoulda woulda coulda" are the last words of a fool

How I wish I, wish I'd done a little bit more
Now " Shoulda woulda coulda" means I'm out of time
Coz "Shoulda woulda coulda" can't change your mind
And I wonder, wonder, wonder what I'm gonna do
Now " Shoulda woulda coulda" means I'm out of time
Coz "Shoulda woulda coulda" can't change your mind
Can't change your mind.

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