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In Longman dictionary, it says that:

"you would have thought (that) "(also you would think (that)) used to say that you expect something to be true, although it is not

Here are my examples, I don't know if I can use "would have thought" and "would think" interchangeably for a past action:

Example 1:

A:Tom failed the exam.

B: (1) Really? I would have thought that he passed the examination.'

B: (2) Really? I would think that he passed the examination.

Example 2:

John: I gave the waiter a $50 dollar tip and he gave me a dirty look. Maybe I should have given him more?

Bill:(1) No, $50 is enough, I would have thought.

Bill:(2) No, $50 is enough, I would think.

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    For (1), "I would have thought [that] he would have passed the exam." (You can't say 'he passed' if he didn't pass.) Jun 16, 2022 at 9:17
  • B: (1) Really? I (would have thought)/(would think) that he would never pass the examination.'. Here both (would have thought)/(would think) are correct to use. Right?
    – LE HANH
    Jun 17, 2022 at 7:29
  • I don't find that version idiomatic. If he did pass unexpectedly, you might say "I would never have thought that he would/could pass that exam." Jun 17, 2022 at 8:09
  • @Kate Bunting I'm glad to greet you! In your example with the negation you do not use "would" with perfect infinitive whereas you do it in the first sentence. Why is it so? And what if I said: "I would never have thought that he would have passed that exam." ?
    – Eugene
    Oct 17, 2023 at 8:26
  • "I would have thought he would have passed" - you expected to hear that he had passed until you were told otherwise. "I would never have thought that he would pass" - Before the exam, you never said to yourself "He will pass". Oct 17, 2023 at 8:32

1 Answer 1

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I would have thought is just a slightly more "hedged, hesitant" alternative to I would think.

Both of which are ways for a speaker to "distance" himself from what he's saying (usually for the sake of politeness / deference / formality). As it happens, in both of OP's examples the speaker is disagreeing with something someone else said, but the usage under consideration here is just as suitable when agreeing with someone...

A: "I hope my £50 tip was enough. What do you think?"
B: "For sure. £50 is plenty, I would think"

The speaker's intended meaning (which he's diffident about explicitly saying) is simply I think [whatever I just said].


As commented by @Kate above, OP's first example doesn't really make sense, because it's a "mash-up" of two contradictory assertions - (1) I expected that he would pass, but apparently I was wrong - he didn't pass, and (2) You are wrong - he did pass.

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  • B: (1) Really? I (would have thought)/(would think) that he would never pass the examination.'. Here both (would have thought)/(would think) are correct to use. Right?
    – LE HANH
    Jun 17, 2022 at 7:29
  • I don't really understand what you mean by that. But note that B: Really? I would think that he would never pass the examination doesn't make sense if speaker has just been told that he did pass (unless speaker is simply dismissing that information because he doesn't believe it). If B says Really? I would have thought that he would never pass the examination, that's fine (he's expressing surprise, because something has happened that he didn't expect). Jun 17, 2022 at 10:26
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    Check out @Kate's final comment again: I would never have thought that he would/could pass that exam (it's more natural to negate the thought, not the passing). Don't repeat complex verb forms as per (2) in your above comment - it's clumsy. But to be honest, I'm not sure you're gaining any benefit from this exchange. I suggest you avoid trying to use unnecessary conditionals in such contexts. I didn't think he would pass means the same as all the alternatives saying what you would or wouldn't have thought, so you should just stick to that form. Mar 7, 2023 at 11:27
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    The conditional might very slightly imply I didn't actually think / care about it enough to have formed an opinion, but if I had thought about it, I would have concluded that... But that implication wouldn't necessarily be intended and/or understood - and even if it were, the actual positive or negative significance would be context-specific. Mar 7, 2023 at 15:40
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    For the third or fourth time, I don't think this is getting you anywhere. #3 there might come across as the "most polite". Or it might come across as the most patronizing / insulting, depending on the exact context. You simply cannot expect to learn subtle aspects of usage like this by reading "rules" and/or asking native speakers what they think. At this level, you can only really learn by reading and/or listening to what native speakers write and/or say. Mar 8, 2023 at 11:45

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