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When we describe historical events, like events related to the Roman empires, Persian empires, etc., what is the best way to describe peoples' thought with a connection to the present?

People might have thought the same back in those days, but you know it's not always correct.

People had thought the same back in those days, but you know it's not always correct.

People thought the same back in those days, but you know it's not always correct.

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Just as a side note, what is "it's" referring to? The sentence doesn't really make sense to me. –  Julia Feb 15 '12 at 16:49
    
It might be a point previously made in the conversation... And that's not important. –  Noah Feb 15 '12 at 18:54
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People had thought . . . would not be used in this context because that construction describes an event that occurred before some other event in the past. People thought . . . conveys certainty. People might have thought . . . suggests doubt.

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Could you give me an example where 'people had thought' might be appropriate? –  Noah Feb 15 '12 at 8:38
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@Noah Some people had thought it was the other way until it was shown that the sun revolved around the earth. –  Kris Feb 15 '12 at 8:54
    
OK, you might have got the first paragraph dead right when you wrote this answer, but I'm not happy with the second. Wouldn't that have been may have thought? –  TimLymington Nov 5 '13 at 22:31
    
Might have thought = we’re not sure whether they thought or not. May have thought = it was possible at the time that they thought, but we know they didn’t. –  Barrie England Nov 6 '13 at 7:39
    
@Barrie: ??? As I use the language, precisely the other way about: may can only indicate uncertainty in the present. (I now see that the first half of my comment was ambiguous, but that doesn't change the point.) –  TimLymington Nov 6 '13 at 23:22
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