Do Britons normally use the tense “WOULD have done” when making an informed guess?

I mean – as a less certain version of “MUST have done”?
(1) As a mercenary, you {would have seen} first hand the dire situation of the foreign lands.

(2) There {would have been} some fairly shady goings-on here over the years, seeing how it’s so hidden away from view.
Every time I use the tense “would have done” as in the two examples above, Americans shoot it down as misleading. From their perspective, this “would have done” usage so strongly suggests a conditional statement that they will likely wait for an if-clause to follow later on in the sentence.

Do Britons normally use “would have done” like this when making an informed guess? Would you add “I suppose” or “I imagine” to more clearly differentiate this (surmising) “would have done” usage from the (if) conditional usage?
(1+) As a mercenary, {I suppose you would have seen} first hand the dire situation of the foreign lands.

(2+) {I imagine there would have been} some fairly shady goings-on here over the years, seeing how it’s so hidden away from view.

The Americans would says that - wouldn’t they?

Yip. I’ve also heard ‘probably would have’ or ‘might have’ used in the same context.

Source: NZer living in the North-West of UK.

As a Brit, I have no problems with the examples you have given.

Yes, but not normally or abnormally, just those occasions when nuance demands.

The second set interposing the speaker would be less used, but are easily possible although sounding less neutral. I suspect it depends more on the preferences of the speaker.

Kiwi here: that’s fine with me too: its an interrogative statement - a question which gives the other person a chance to modify or disagree. Its a conversational style.

By contrast saying “you must…” is a an outright statement about the other person and it may be insulting if they haven’t done/observed/felt whatever you insist they “must…”.

For example I was recently taken to task by my loved ones for exasperatedly saying at times “but you must have known this and that…”. It comes across as patronising apparently. :smiley:

As someone from the UK, I would have thought that it is in common use.

Did you see what I did there?

Oh, I see. “Would” seems to be an effective substitute for “must” if you don’t want to annoy someone with your baseless assertions. (ha-ha)

As a Briton living in the US, I don’t think it’s misleading.

The “would have thought” construction is the one that piqued my American ears when I heard it the first few times in contexts where I, as an American (or at least in my American dialect), would simply have said “I think so.” Now I found myself using this “softer,” more wordy construction.

Right, although I don’t think the most jarring context is a replacement for “must” but rather as a way of advising or informing someone without being condescending…

{implied words in braces}

Direct: “You need to adjust the Fetzer value.”
British: “I would have thought you needed to adjust the Fetzer value {, but that can’t possibly be the solution since you would have come up with it already on your own, so I will just mention that I would have thought that}.”

Now that you mention it, there’s another matter of the “I would have thought” understatement. I didn’t realise this expression is confined to BrE, though. :eek:

Yep - that’s Appalachian as well which is sometimes compared to Victorian English.

Also traditional here are:
“(I) don’t care to…” meaning I don’t mind doing somthing for you
“prize” meaning to pry something open - confirmed this in a Triunph car manual :slight_smile:
“quite” as an adjective meaning marginal or “just OK” as in a meal was “quite good”

The ‘direct’ above is the way a superior or more experienced person might tell a junior what they are doing wrong.

The ‘British’ is more conciliatory - maybe between equals or even junior to superior.

I’m not sure about the circumstances. You say they’re waiting for ‘an if-clause’, where I’d be more likely to say “I could have…” Or you could use “I might have…” or “I’d like to…”

Maybe they’re wanting you to be less certain about your decisions? Language you use is quite instructive, giving away your intentions can be predictable. They may see;

I would / I’d --> I will
I’ll --> I will
I could --> I can
I might --> I may
I’d like to --> I want to

To you and me, I’d… is a hypothetical, to others it could be a definite outcome. For example; “If he pushed me again I’d smack him in the face” and “If he tried to push me again I’d smack him in the face” are quite different. ‘Quite’ is also very subject to interpretation, we mostly understand it as being subject to the situation and usually mild, but the adjective is actually the more extreme of
the dictionary’s definition, in that ‘quite’ means ‘a lot’. You see this in periodical tv programs where someone says “He’s quite the cad” and the other toff says “Yes, quite.” Which usually means the guy in question is a total bastard.

For most people, ‘quite’ is a grey/gray area which means ‘a bit, but not a lot’. Language isn’t universal, unlike morals, so when speaking with other people it’s necessary to be aware of their own cultural preferences. It can be quite fun, for example;

I’d had a long flight from London to Chicago, and was due to go on to Vegas. I had a few hours spare and was looking for a place to have a cigarette. I found the tallest, meanest looking armed security guy and said “I’ve just come from England on a long flight, pant, where can I go for a fag?” The smile on that guy was priceless, as he indicated to the smokers’ area nearby. I think he knew I was having a giggle at our language difference, which made the experience all the more worthwhile.

“I would have done” can come across as a somewhat evasive answer to a direct question. “Did you follow the steps in the procedure?” “I would have done, yes.” Hearing that makes me tend to suspect that a more accurate answer is “no”.

I remember being present at a court case where a police officer was being cross-examined. The point at issue was whether interview notes were contemporaneous or had been prepared at a later time. The barrister asked highly specific questions like “was there a notepad on the table?”, and consistently received replies of the form “there would have been”. The policeman seemed unwilling to give a definite answer, which was damaging to his credibility and to the credibility of the prosecution case.

In this examples, the use of the “would have” form suggests to me that the witness doesn’t recall the specific incident, but he uses his knowledge of what generally happens to deduce what would have happened on this occasion. Did John come to work on Wednesday? He would have done; he works Mondays to Fridays.

It could also mean

British: “I would have thought you needed to adjust the Fetzer value {, and I still do think that unless you have information to the contrary}.”

American chiming in here – just as a data point, I agree with the OP – in the British examples cited, I am left waiting for an “if” clause. But, as others have noted, I can start to understand most of the British usages by assuming the implied missing clause to be something like “if I were you” or “if I had been the one in your situation.”