In a community of Italian people learning English, a user asked:

I've found this sentence in a book, but I hardly understand the used tense: “He have kept that bottled up inside him all these years”

This is how I've answered:

Present perfect, but I would expect "he has".

What I want to imply is that I'm strongly confident that I'm right, therefore I've picked the second conditional. Should I have picked the 3rd one instead? Given the fact that I hadn't the chance to pick anything at all?

  • 2
    Would doesn't say anything about your confidence, it describes a hypothetical case: if it were the present perfect tense, it would be "he has". Dec 23, 2022 at 12:13
  • @AndrewTobilko ok, but second and third conditional have a different degree of how much an event is likely to happen or not, am I wrong?
    – esa
    Dec 23, 2022 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


It would be correct to use either "would expect" or "would have expected".

(or perhaps I should say 'It would have been correct to use either "would expect" or "would have expected".')

This is one of the cases in which the time reference is vague and so the choice between a hypothetical "would expect" and a counterfactual "would've expected" is a matter of choice or style rather than conveying any particular meaning.

The time reference is vague because you could be talking about when the book was written, or when you told me about the book, or the writing that is on the page. You could be talking about past or present, you could be talking hypothetically or counterfactually, and the meaning is the same.

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