one of the meanings of "would" from thefreedictionary.com:
(Used to express presumption or expectation):
(1) That would be Steve at the door.

"Would" from (1) is strange to me. I would like to get to know better about it.

my context:
We are inside the building. Suddenly someone is knocking at the door. We understand this is probably Steve outside who is knocking. And we say:
(1) That would be Steve at the door. = (2) That's probably Steve at the door.

Tell me please:
Is my context correct? If not, then why not?
Do (1) and (2) mean the same? If not, then why not?

  • "That would be Steve [waiting at the door]" expresses some uncertainty", but "That will be Steve [when I open the door]" expresses confidence. Jul 17, 2023 at 19:38

1 Answer 1


The expression, "That would be X" means you have every reason to believe that it is X. It's correct to use in your given context.

(1) and (2) don't mean the same thing because (2) sounds more like a best guess, not committing to saying it's Steve, while (1) is sure. If you say (2), and it's not Steve, you're not wrong, but if you say (1) and it's not Steve, you'll be wrong.

  • Does "That would be Steve at the door." mean "That is expected to be Steve at the door."? If not, then what word(s) can I replace "would" with for the meaning "used to express presumption or expectation"? Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Jul 18, 2023 at 4:10
  • @Loviii "That should/ought to be Steve at the door"
    – gotube
    Jul 18, 2023 at 5:35
  • Just to be clear. You write "the expression "That would be X" means ...". Does it mean that "would" which is used to express presumption or expectation, can be used only in the expression "That would be X"? Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Jul 18, 2023 at 5:48
  • @Loviii Are you asking if there are other ways to use "would" that have the same function? Or are you asking if "would" is the only verb that works in that expression?
    – gotube
    Jul 19, 2023 at 2:41
  • 1
    @Loviii The words "would be" are the core of the expression. It just about always includes "this/that/these/those" as the root of the subject. These are all correct and have the same function: "That loud snoring would be Matt", "These holes here would all be from a high power rifle", "This smell in the air would be gun powder."
    – gotube
    Jul 19, 2023 at 5:03

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