Some sentences for reference to clear my misunderstanding regarding would

  1. Few people would have been surprised to know another case of corruption in India.
    (A sentence from a newspaper)
  2. “I came in and ordered some shoes from you.” ‘Oh! yes, sir. When would that have been, exactly?’
  3. His test appearance would have triggered jubilation in Ludhiana where his grandparents live.
  4. Harbhajan Singh would have been joyed reading that he was at top of batting charts in the just concluded Test series.
  5. Such cases have not been reported in Delhi. Although there is a good chance that like the Mumbai big team many would have been reluctant to go to police.

My question: Why is would + perfect infinitive used in the above sentences whereas it appears that they do not represent the third conditional? They appear to represent a case of prediction. Please suggest a good book in which the use of a modal verb is clearly explained in detail and particularly this use of would.

  6. (A conversation between correspondent of a newspaper and a leader contesting election for MLA.) Correspondent: Would any state have accepted an outsider as a chief minister? Leader: I’m not an outsider.I belong to this state.

My question is: Why is would used here and not will?


I think you are right that these are not actually conditionals at all. I think that they are a different kind of construction, expressing that the statement is not known but is a surmise, deduction or suggestion.

“Would have” here is the past of “will have”, in the particular meaning of “I guess or surmise or deduce or estimate that”.

You can imagine them being shorthand for something like “I don’t actually know what happened in Ludhiana when he appeared, but I imagine that there would have been jubilation”. In that full sentence, you could say “I imagine that there was jubilation”, but if you take out the explicit “I imagine that”, then the “was” form becomes a definite assertion, but the “will have” or “would have” form retains its quality of surmise or deduction.

In case 2, this same construction of a surmise is being used for politeness. “When was that, exactly?” would be direct, but “When would that have been, exactly?” is (on the surface) inviting you to surmise when it might have been (though in practice is probably asking you to state precisely and not just guess).

Source : Link , Question Author : Anil Mishra , Answer Author : Colin Fine

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