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1. Snape examined Goyle, whose face now resembled something that would have been at home in a book on poisonous fungi.

2. Robert Baratheon and his brothers were all big men, as was the Hound, and back at Winterfell there was a simpleminded stableboy named Hodor who dwarfed them all, but the knight they called the Mountain That Rides would have towered over Hodor.


Hi. Dear teachers. Last year I asked a similar question on "would have".

Mr. CJ had taught me that when it comes to "would have pp", I should think the "would have pp" is not subjunctive but only serves as an just speculation/supposition of possibilities of some event in the past. Now I read that thread again and have another question. In that thread, I have produced four example sentences from novels and Mr. CJ also told me they were all 3rd conditionals.

This is the link: https://www.EnglishForward.com/English/AboutUsageWouldNovels/bkclrb/post.htm

Now my question is: when I come across "would have pp" in reading books(not limited to novels), should I treat all of instances using the pattern "would have pp" as speculation/supposition, or should I treat them as 3rd conditionals? As in the two example I give above. They are speculations? Or 3rd conditionals?

I asked it because 3rd conditionals and speculations seem at odds with each other. The former is counter factual while the latter is non-factual. So they are different. And Mr. CJ told me usually there were if-clauses lurking behind "would have pp". So does that mean all "would have pp" are 3rd conditionals? If so, how come they are speculation at the same time?


Thank you very much.

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I don't see any sharp distinction between "speculation" and "third conditional". The third conditional is talking about an imagined past event, which the author may very well be speculating about. If by "supposition" you mean something like "He would have remembered to lock the door. He always does." (i.e. the speaker believes and supposes that something is true) then yes, that is a different use of "would have".

zuotengdazuo1. Snape examined Goyle, whose face now resembled something that would have been at home in a book on poisonous fungi.

If his face had been in a book on poisonous fungi then it would have been at home.

zuotengdazuo2. Robert Baratheon and his brothers were all big men, as was the Hound, and back at Winterfell there was a simpleminded stableboy named Hodor who dwarfed them all, but the knight they called the Mountain That Rides would have towered over Hodor.

If they had stood next to each other then the knight would have towered over Hodor.

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Thank you for your answer, Mr. GPY.

So you think "speculation" and "third conditionals" the same, right? But I was taught third conditionals are counterfactual while "would have pp" to express speculation is non-factual(namely, you can't tell whether the statement is true or false). So they are different? Is what I was taught wrong?

zuotengdazuoSo you think "speculation" and "third conditionals" the same, right? But I was taught third conditionals are counterfactual while "would have pp" to express speculation is non-factual(namely, you can't tell whether the statement is true or false). So they are different? Is what I was taught wrong?

Can you give full sentences, with any additional necessary context, that illustrate the difference, as you were taught it, between the two?

3. Two weeks ago, he would have considered the task awaiting him at the far end of this tunnel impossible. A suicide mission. Walking naked into alion's lair. But Janus had changed the definition of impossible.

This is an example. I was taught this sentence is a 3rd conditional and therefore counterfactual with an implied if-clause(If this had happened two weeks ago). But I was taught I can also think of "would have considered" as speculation/imagination, which is non-factual? How can it be counterfactual and non-factual at the same time?

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zuotengdazuoTwo weeks ago, he would have considered the task awaiting him at the far end of this tunnel impossible.

This is an imagined situation in the past, just like your first two examples. There are different degrees of counterfactuality in imagined situations, ranging from "couldn't possibly have happened", e.g. the sun not rising in the morning, to "could easily have happened", but I see these as a continuum, not a classification with a sharp division.

Thank you.

1. So you think "would have pp" is used to express counter factuality, which only differs in degree, right? But I always thought "would have pp" didn't express counterfactuality but non-factuality? Am I wrong?

2. I quote these examples from other threads discussing "would have pp". Do you think underlined parts are all 3rd conditionals? Or they are other use of this pattern?

2.1 To be honest with you, I don't know. I still can't believe he survived the blast in Bosnia. They must have captured him, otherwise he would have resurfaced. They would have put him in prison, tortured him for God knows how many years. Now he's holding our government responsible. (”24, season 3, episode 17")
2.2 With his death still under investigation, a source close to Carradine told Tarts that the actor had been struggling with financial concerns (but did not think the 72-year-old actor would have ever even considered taking his own life.)

2.3 The burden of carrying babies presented a dilemma for ancestral mothers as they searched for food and water.To accomplish their tasks, sometimes they would have needed to put their babies down, and these interruptionsin physical contact would have been distressing for babies then as they are now.

2.4 Kant, the philosopher, would have made a good poet.

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zuotengdazuo1. So you think "would have pp" is used to express counter factuality, which only differs in degree, right? But I always thought "would have pp" didn't express counterfactuality but non-factuality? Am I wrong?

Are you suggesting that "would have pp" can't be used for situations that we know didn't happen? That isn't right: it is commonly used in such cases. E.g. "If it had been a nice day, I would have gone to the beach" (but it wasn't a nice day, so I didn't go to the beach).

The central idea of most uses of "would have pp" is "imagined past situation". It may be a situation that didn't happen because some condition wasn't satisfied; it may be something that the speaker thinks happened or might have happened (but didn't observe first-hand).

zuotengdazuo2. I quote these examples from other threads discussing "would have pp". Do you think underlined parts are all 3rd conditionals? Or they are other use of this pattern?

By my reckoning, a conditional should involve a condition. None of your examples have explicit conditions, and implied conditions seem weak or non-existent. I guess you could say that an implied condition "If he had become a poet" attaches to "Kant would have made a good poet", but some people might think it a little redundant.



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