How to say past imagination in English language?

Please explain to me whether the examples below are correct.

I want to say to my friend that he speaks English very well because he was trained by a good teacher.

“He was trained by good teacher” I want to say this as imagination/Hypothesis.

How would I say this?

“Your English is good because your Teacher would have been good in English.”


“Your English is good because your Teacher would have taught you good English.”


Anything else?

  • Using would have been (or would have thought) sounds off because it will suggest that whoever would have been good or whatever the teacher would have taught is "unreal" (i.e. "not true"!). Here are possible expressions for what is not unreal but uncertain, could/should/ought to/may/will/must have done/been/etc. In this context, I'd normally use must have been. May 14, 2015 at 3:10
  • @DamkerngT.- Right. You are very good at English. You must have had a great teacher!
    – Jim
    May 14, 2015 at 3:38
  • DamkerngT. Nice comments. +1 if it's your answer.
    – Khan
    May 14, 2015 at 5:12
  • I think it is better to retain the OP's words (imagination/hypothesis) rather than change them to 'supposition', until we get clarification that this is what is meant. (@Brian Hitchcock) Also, imaginary and hypothetical are common terms when talking about, for example, the subjunctive. And perhaps the OP is trying to extend the subjunctive to the past. To me, supposition is an over-interpretation of the OPs words, at least at present.
    – user6951
    May 14, 2015 at 18:55

3 Answers 3


If you want to say that possibly something happened in the past, you can use the following forms:

Might have or could have.

However, if you realise something certainly happened in the past, you can use the form "must have".

You might have been taught by a good teacher (perhaps a good teacher taught you).

You could have been trained/taught by a good teacher (It's possible a good teacher trained/taught you).

You must have been taught by a good teacher (I realize you have certainly been taught by a good teacher).


If you are talking about an imaginary event that "happened' in the past:

Your English would be very good because you would have been taught by a good teacher.

On the other hand, you do not have to use would or any other special word. You can talk about an imaginary event using the simple past:

Your English is very good because you were taught by a very good teacher.

Just like:

Alice fell down the rabbit hole because she got too close to it.


"Would have" doesn't really work here. "Would have" simply doesn't mean "this might be the cause". It can be used to indicate an expected RESULT of something that never happened, but not a cause. Like, "You would have learned good English if you had a more experienced teacher."

The most natural way to express the idea you want is to use words like "maybe" or "perhaps" to indicate uncertainty, and a word like "because" to indicate cause. I would likely say, "Perhaps your English is good because you had a good teacher." Another possibility is, "A good teacher may be what led to your good English."


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