I have learned more about conjecture. Link: You know what probably happened?

So, my understanding is as follows.


1. You know what probably happened?
2. You know what I think probably happened?

Both sentences express a conjecture equally well. The difference is not semantic. It is mainly stylistic. 'I think' just softens the conjecture a bit. It is already clear that the first sentence is a conjecture because of the 'probably'.

I've understood the above feedback from a good person who is legatrix.



3. You know what would probably happen?

This sentence No. 3 is different. It is back-shifting by 'would usage.'

I mean, I expected "Something will probably happen" in the past. As time goes by, I can say the past event which, I expect, was likely to take place. Hence, I guess sentence No. 3 is similar to the under one.

= You know what was probably gonna happen?

Do I understand exactly?

1 Answer 1


Note that "gonna" is very informal, and you should use "going to"... If you didn't know that, then you will have better luck searching now.

Now, about sentence 3:

You know what would probably happen?

We can shorten "Do you know" to "You know", or even just "Know". That is probably what this sentence is doing - it's asking "Do you know what would probably happen?" You're right in thinking that "would probably" indicates conjecture here; a hypothetical situation. But would doesn't place the action in the past. You would use "have" for that - Do you know what probably would have happened?

(3) is about the future, in a sense; but it isn't really about time. it is saying that in general, if the condition that is being discussed is ever met, the speaker has a good guess at what the result would be (and he is announcing that he knows, and getting your attention.) You (the listener) could ignore the speaker, and he would tell you his guess. Or you could make eye contact to show you are paying attention, or you could ask "What?" Or, you might answer with your own guess:

Speaker: Ya know what would happen if you bought candy?
Listener: I would eat all of it.

It is not talking about the past; it is talking generally - it is just talking abstractly about a cause/effect relationship.

But this thing: You know what was probably gonna happen?

This construction is about the past. It is a pretty rare construction. I'll give an example use case for it -

Bob: Charles threw his ice cream in the trash!  What a waste.
Dave: You know what was probably gonna happen?
Bob: No, what?
Dave: It was probably going to drip on the carpet.

Because of the word "was", the sentence is speaking of the past. Whatever it was that was going to happen is no longer going to happen.

  • 1
    and i'll comment on my own answer - what "would probably happen" now is likely the same thing that "would have probably happened", or alternately, that "probably would have happened", and, still more, that "would probably have happened" - the continuous is what would happen in the general case. But what "would have happened" might not be what "would happen" now; something may have changed between then and now. That overlap might make it harder to sort it out. Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 10:34
  • Hi, Even though you kindly explained "Now we are talking about the future, you could say. We are using the continuous." I still don't get it. Could you elaborate on what you said? Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 12:10
  • Moreover, as far as I know, "would" by itself can have connotation of 'conjecture', isn't this? Anyway, Do you mean "would" can be understandable as something to govern subjunctive usage in this sentence No. 3? Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 12:37
  • 1
    It looks like I was wrong to say continuous. I'll edit this a little. I actually didn't what subjunctives were until you brought them up, so thanks :) Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 21:24
  • Hi, Happy New Year. so when i say "You know what was probably gonna happen?", this sentence means something was going to happen. But something is not likely to happen. As well, I am not 100% sure that something is not likely to happen. Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 12:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .