She has five kids. I can imagine how busy she would be.

Is the use of would be right in this sentence? What about

She has five kids. I can imagine how busy she is.

Are both correct? Do they mean different things?

  • They are both correct and they both pretty much mean the same thing: The woman is very busy, and you can understand that just by thinking about it. – J.R. Oct 19 '16 at 8:39

"I can imagine how busy she would be."

is your imagination speaking. You're picturing that she's probably busy, with no evidence to say that she in fact is. It's not that she stated anything, or you saw anything; you've just imagined that she's busy all the time, so cannot definitively say that she is busy (merely "would be").

"I can imagine how busy she is" (with an implied "all the time!")

is agreeing with a statement or presented fact. If someone said "She's really busy", or you saw her running around, then this second version is better. Although it uses the word "imagine", replace it with the similar word "picture" - you're using your imagination to picture her running around all the time. In the face of this evidence, it would be slightly negative to say the first version.

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