Let's think of a situation.

I'm talking to my father. He tells me that a girl came to our house yesterday and asked him about me. Now my father asks me "Who was she?" I'm not sure who she was. I just guess and say,

She would have been Sapna.

Thus I express my 'expected guess'. Now my question is that is my answer grammatical? Can we express 'past expected guess' by 'would have'.I fear that the sentence could mean conditional. But there is context behind the sentence. Is my approach correct?

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can say this. For some reason, I find Yes, that would have been Sapna more natural.

This is the epistemic sense of "would": like all modals it has both its usual deontic sense (in the case of would, about possibility or willingness) and an epistemic sense about how you know something: here, something like "I conclude that".

  • 1
    In the UK, at any rate, you can say 'that'll be (or that will be) Sapna' even though it happened in the past. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 16:10
  • 2
    Or "It would have been Sapna", even though you are talking about a person (in the same way that you say "It's me" or "It's Sahil" to identify yourself to someone who knows you but can't see you). Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 17:21

The grammar is good, but it doesn't have the meaning you intend.

That sentence is confident that the person who came was Sapna. Its meaning is very close to "That was Sapna."

But in your question, you say you're unsure, and you just guess. If you're unsure, then you need to use words that show uncertainty:

That could have been Sapna.
That might have been Sapna.
That may have been Sapna.

  • Let's say, she told me that she would come to my house. So the guess here is not just guess rather its an 'expected' guess. So what would be the appropriate sentence to use in that case? Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 4:48
  • In that case, either "That would have been Sapna" or "That was Sapna" would be correct.
    – gotube
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 6:21

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