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I have questions about the purpose of "would have+p.p.". For example, please look at the following sentences. What is the purpose and function of these "would have+p.p." in those sentences?

I suppose the writer would have been about 30 when he published his first book.

That would have been Della's car. (How is that different with "That would be Della's car." ? )

Within 10 weeks of the introduction, 34 million people would have been reached by our television commercials.

I would have liked a life in politics.

I would never have done what they did.

She would have arrived by now.

I've been confused with this problem for a while, so could you please help me with it? I'd appreciate it.
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Hi,

Here are a few comments for you to consider. If you have any more questions, please post again.

Next time, please try to use a smaller-sized font Emotion: smile)

Clive.

I suppose the writer would have been about 30 when he published his first book. The modal/PP shows doubt. The statement about age may or may not be correct.

That would have been Della's car. (How is that different with "That would be Della's car." ? <<< This would not be used for a past situation.) Again, this shows lack of certainty. The speaker is trying to make a logical deduction.

Within 10 weeks of the introduction, 34 million people would have been reached by our television commercials. This sounds like the speaker thinks the introduction probably did not happen, and thus the 34 million were not reached. This senetnce is a little trickier, in that it could also refer to a future introduction that the speaker knows will not happen.

I would have liked a life in politics. Because of the pronoun 'I', the speaker is not showing lack of certainty. He is speaking of a hypothetical situation in the past, which he knows did not happen. You might say he is speaking of 'an alterbative form of the past'.

I would never have done what they did. Again, a situation in the past which the speaker knows did not 'happen'.

She would have arrived by now. Again, shows lack of certainty. If the speaker were certain, he'd simply say 'She has arrived by now'.

That would be Della's car. ~ That is probably Della's car. That is most likely Della's car.
That would have been Della's car. ~ That was probably Della's car. That was most likely Della's car.
CJ
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CalifJimThat would be Della's car. ~ That is probably Della's car. That is most likely Della's car.

That would have been Della's car. ~ That was probably Della's car. That was most likely Della's car.

CJ Hi Jim,

Don't know anything about "modals", and this probably begs the question, but my sense of this construction has always been that there's absolutely no doubt in the mind of the speaker. He knows something which is unknown to the person or group he's addressing. Based either on information they've given him, or on facts evident to them all, he makes an induction of which he is sure. The reason "is" or "was" doesn't apply is because it's not necessarily evident to the group he's addressing, although he could have chosen "is" or "was."

My question is, is doubt an essential quality of the construction in current usage, and if so, is it doubt in the mind of the speaker or some kind of logical doubt based on context - or something else?

It would be different if he said, "I think/believe that would be Della's car.

Best regards, - A.
my sense of this construction has always been that there's absolutely no doubt in the mind of the speaker. He knows something which is unknown to the person or group he's addressing. Based either on information they've given him, or on facts evident to them all, he makes an induction of which he is sure. The reason "is" or "was" doesn't apply is because it's not necessarily evident to the group he's addressing, although he could have chosen "is" or "was."
Let me be sure I understand what you're saying here. You're saying that That would be Della's car has the same meaning as That is Della's car, except that with would the speaker knows it's Della's car and the listener does not? Did I understand correctly?
CJ
CalifJimLet me be sure I understand what you're saying here. You're saying that That would be Della's car has the same meaning as That is Della's car, except that with would the speaker knows it's Della's car and the listener does not? Did I understand correctly?
Yes, that's what it's always meant to me. The doubt in the mind of the listener(s) would depend on the credibility of the speaker, who chose "would" knowing his listeners might doubt him.

Is doubt in the mind of the speaker essential in current understanding of the construction?

- A.

Edit. Perhaps this is an old usage. In the 1950's a young farmer said to me, "Do you know Levi?" (reply afirmative) "I'd be his son."
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(post edit) There's this feeling that a logical process has gone on in the mind of the speaker, which he invites you to share or not share, at your option.
So then That would be Della's car has the same meaning as That is Della's car, except that with would the speaker knows it's Della's car and the listener does not. But then again, in That is Della's car (without would), we could equally well have a case where the speaker knows it's Della's car and the listener does not. So the question of who knows what doesn't seem to be the main thing that distinguishes the one sentence from the other. I think we need to dig a little deeper into this. And I see you have, with your idea of the speaker's presentation of the 'facts' as if deduced and communicated as 'new data' for the listener. Frankly, I'm at a loss to say exactly what the criteria are for the natural use of would in these cases, but I'm sure it's not a matter of whether the listener already knows (or is ignorant of) the information being communicated. At the same time, I'm sure that you are on the right track.
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But I want to add something else. I think your example I'd be his son is a central example of the sort of usage of would that you're talking about in your latest posts. To my ear, it cannot be paraphrased with I am probably his son.
On the other hand, I don't think That would be Della's car is necessarily a central example of the same usage. Here I find (as I posted earlier) that That is probably Della's car makes a rather successful paraphrase. So I think this one (as I'm reading it) is a different usage of would. I have the feeling that you don't think so. Emotion: smile I would take the "probably" paraphrase as a different (and additional) reading of would -- not the only reading.
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By the way, in my original response, the focus was on the implied tenses (would be / would have been) -- not on the presence or absence of doubt. And besides, I'm not even sure what my opinion is on the relation of probability to doubt. !!!

CJ
There's this feeling that a logical process has gone on in the mind of the speaker, which he invites you to share or not share, at your option.
Yes. I see that. And there may be even more.
In this usage of would, I also sometimes have the feeling that the speaker is sometimes "showing how smart he is", sometimes even "trivializing the information" or even the listener. And I also think that the speaker is sometimes trying to astonish the listener in some way. In a way, I guess I can often sense that the overall attitude of the speaker is one of superiority.
Does any of this "ring true" for you? (If it weren't so late here, I'd try to think up a set of examples. As it is, I'll have to hang it up for today. ttyl.)
CJ
Another point regards my "probability" reading of would. I like to compare it to a similar use of will. When I hear, from another room in the house, the sound of something being dropped into the mail slot, I think "That will be the mailman." In so doing, I mean "That is probably the mailman". It is perhaps just one degree below "That must be the mailman". I'm not sure how this will differs from the would we've been discussing. -- just a few other data points to consider. -- just thinking aloud a bit.
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