i always thought бы should be used with verbs in the past tense. Example: Я тебя бы сказал. I should have told you.

but the passage below it's used like this: надо бы рассказать...

На фоне трагедии Фауста это персонаж скорее малозначительный, чем загадочный, однако справедливости ради надо бы рассказать и о нем.

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    Я тебе бы сказал, (not тебя) and it means "I would have told you" or "I would tell you", not "I should have"
    – d.k
    Jun 21, 2018 at 1:09
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    as Alex_ander has noted this expression can also be worded as надо БЫЛО бы рассказать so you get the past tense in БЫЛО Jun 21, 2018 at 5:40
  • i wonder if надо бы is actually надо есть бы or something with to be in present
    – Arioch
    Jun 21, 2018 at 9:57
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    @Arioch i feel it's actually projected into the future, but since we unfortunately can't say надо будет бы we're only relegated to the past tense, in fact надо бы рассказать is also to an extent synonymous to надо будет рассказать Jun 21, 2018 at 10:53
  • I think it is only projected in a way how present tense is often used to describe settled future. "I am going to buy car tomorrow", "Я иду в школу завтра", etc. So it is already today and now w.r.t. "надо", while the action itself is indeed for the future, the "it is required" state is here already. We talk about immediately present need to do something in the future.
    – Arioch
    Jun 21, 2018 at 12:17

1 Answer 1


In this usage (надо) бы expresses the author's hesitation, as if the idea of writing about something else came up at the last moment and it's unclear yet if that material should be placed in the same section of the book, how detailed it should be, etc.

If the author just wanted to mention that opportunity without writing about it at all, they could write (надо) было бы instead and then explain why the idea was abandoned.

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