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Are there differences in meaning between the sentences below?

Supposing they had taken your car without asking you, what would you have done?

Let us suppose they had taken your car without asking you, what would you have done?

In my opinion (I am non-native) the latter sentence is less hypothetical than the former on the fact that they, really, had taken the car.

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There is a potential ambiguity in the first sentence. It can mean either that you are setting up a hypothetical case to be considered, or that you are asking what the listener would do if he had made such a supposition. Let us illustrate the discrepancy.

Supposing they had taken your car without asking you, what would you have done?

This could mean the same as

If you believed that they had taken your car without asking you, what would you have done?

Except for that, neither is more nor less hypothetical than the other. Both involve supposition.

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hence, both 'Supposing' and 'Let us suppose' are rewordable whit 'If'. Or not? –  user19148 Apr 1 '12 at 13:04
    
Except as noted in my answer, yes. The distinction there refers to whether the listener is being asked to suppose or is already making a supposition. –  Robusto Apr 1 '12 at 13:10
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In the context of your specific sentences, I think both constructions are equivalent.

Let us suppose is a construction that I would expect to hear in the context of a logical argument or a mathematical proof where an initial assumption is made for the sake of the argument, especially when the point is to prove the assumption is true.

In this sense, I think you could argue that Let us suppose... is somewhat less hypothetical than supposing.... The distinction is very, very fine, however.

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The practical meaning of both sentences is virtually the same, however if you were to discriminate you could say that the sentence

Supposing that they had taken your car without asking you, what would you have done?

is more informal. Both the sentences are equally hypothetical in my opinion, as even in the second sentence the speaker is only proposing a hypothetical condition and predicating the second part of the sentence based on it.

Oh, and the second sentence in my opinion would be better written

Let us suppose that they had taken your car without asking you: what would you have done?

Which is a conjugation of 'Let us suppose that they had taken your car without asking you. In that case, what would you have done?

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The second highlighted example in your answer is a stylistically-incorrect run-on sentence (specifically, a comma splice), instead of being a proper conjugation. –  jwpat7 Apr 1 '12 at 13:54
    
I hadn't noticed, thanks! Edited. –  hrishioa Apr 1 '12 at 15:28
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