Which of the following is a proper paraphrase of "I expected better of Sarah"?

a. I thought Sarah would behave better.

b. I thought Sarah would have behaved better.


I'd say both of OP's alternatives are perfectly acceptable for the cited context, but possibly some pedants might want to argue with the logic of that position (because both the speaker's thought and Sarah's behaviour were in the past - superficially a better match to OP's second version).

In practice, though, few native speakers would think OP's first version was at all unusual. But consider this very similar example...

1: I thought1 you would like him
2: I thought you would have liked him

...where #1 could be used with either of the two possible implications ...but actually I was mistaken OR ...and I was proved right. But the Perfect form #2 can only normally be used with first of those two implications (I thought it would have happened, but it didn't).

It would take a very contrived context for OP's first version to carry the implication that the speaker's expectations had been confirmed (i.e. - that Sarah's behaviour did improve). In theory the words could have that meaning (as with my alternative), but that would be a very unusual way of expressing it.

1 Note that I highlighted would like / have liked in my examples to draw attention to the different verb forms. But in actual speech, heavy stress would be placed on either would or like/liked to convey the first possible meaning (speaker acknowledging that he was mistaken). OR heavy stress would be placed on thought to convey the second sense (speaker triumphantly announcing that his expectations have proved correct).

  • Upper intermediate and advanced learners perceive a huge difference between the two paraphrases in the original post. "I thought Sarah would behave better" describes the future in the past; it states the speaker's expectation of what was going to happen. On the other hand, "I thought Sarah would have behaved better" describes "past within the past." It says that in the past, the speaker deduced what he thought had (probably) been true. Don't you perceive such a difference?
    – Apollyon
    Jan 16 at 2:09
  • Therefore, only a is a proper paraphrase.
    – Apollyon
    Jan 16 at 2:31
  • I'm guessing you're not a native Anglophone. I don't precisely understand the point you're making, but it seems to be a matter of logic and/or misguided TEFL principles. I assure you almost all native speakers would see both your alternatives as having equivalent meaning, in the specific context you describe (whereas my example is subtly different). If you think something different, it's probably because you've been taught how to pass TEFL exams, not how to use English like the natives! Jan 16 at 4:32
  • Suppose you've just been told that Sarah misbehaved last Friday even though you've repeatedly told her to behave herself. Would you say, "I thought she would behave better" or "I thought she would have behaved better"?
    – Apollyon
    Jan 16 at 6:13
  • Might I ask you, what is the grammatical meaning "would V" and "would have vpp??
    – Apollyon
    Jan 16 at 7:49

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