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In dictionary

would imagine, say, think, etc. (that)… used to give opinions that you are not certain about

I would imagine the job will take about two days.

I'd say he was about fifty.

My question is that does "I'd say he was about fifty."="he could be about fifty." & "I would imagine the job will take about two days."="The job could take about two days"?

Second, do you native say "I would say he could be about fifty."? (I am not sure whether we should use "could" in "he could be about fifty." or "could" is unnecessary.) I would think that way of saying is not idiomatic, but I am not sure.

closed as unclear what you're asking by FumbleFingers, Glorfindel, M.A.R., P. E. Dant, Varun Nair Oct 24 '16 at 5:44

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  • I don't get this. You write do you native say "I would say he could be about fifty."?, but then yourself use exactly the same construction in your last sentence: I would think that way of saying is not idiomatic. Why would you suppose I would say might not be "idiomatic", if you're obviously happy to just write I would think without giving it a thought? – FumbleFingers Oct 22 '16 at 16:48
  • @FumbleFingers, because I am not sure whether we should use "could" in "he could be about fifty." or "could" is unnecessary. – Tom Oct 22 '16 at 16:58
  • You mean you're not sure about the "doubling-up" of uncertainty because it's I would say he could be about 50? But hedging and being non-commital is just part of normal English. Obviously about is deliberately imprecise, and we could pile any number of additional "obfuscations" in there (introduce the statement with I don't really know, but if pressed perhaps I'd say..., muddy the value 50 by switching to fiftyish, etc.). – FumbleFingers Oct 22 '16 at 17:04
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The sentences you give have similar meanings. There is a slight difference, though, and that is a difference in how much certainty the speaker has about the possibility.

"Would imagine" and related phrases emphasize that you are making your best guess, but you recognize that it is only a guess, and that you might be wrong.

The job could take about two days.

To me, the speaker sounds like they're just offering two days as a possibility. They are giving no opinion about how likely this is. It might be very unlikely that it would actually take two days, and the speaker is just letting you know that it is possible.

I would imagine the job will take about two days.

Here, the speaker is giving their opinion. They think it is likely that the job will take about two days. They might be wrong, but they are using what they know to make their best guess.

To your second question,

I would say he could be about fifty.

This sounds slightly redundant to me, but not wrong. I could imagine a native speaker saying it. But the addition of "could" adds more uncertainty to the statement. The speaker is making a guess, but they are quite unsure about how accurate their guess is.

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I'd say he was about fifty.
He could be about fifty.

The principal difference between these two sentences is that the first is clearly a statement of the speaker's opinion and the second is a statement of probability. Could is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary to imply slight or uncertain possibility

The first is regularly used exactly like this. The second can be used on its own to express a low probability, but it is more often used about the less probable of two options. For example,

He looks about 40, but he could be as old as 50.
It will probably take a couple of days, but it could take as long as a week.

Regarding the second part of your question:

I would say he could be about fifty.

This sound rather strange, because could implies a low probability, so this sentence suggests that the speaker's best guess about something is improbable.

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