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I have some problems to understand the true usage of “would” and “would have pp”. I have already reviewed many forums and websites, but I have not managed to come to any conclusion. For instance, in these sentences:

1- People in the area had never seen this phenomenon before, but they also reported that there less mosquitoes than they would have expected, given the amount of standing water. Why “would have expected”? And to be precise: Why not “would expect”?

2- Another reason to use a hybrid format is when you want to highlight skills and achievements from earlier in your career that would otherwise be buried at the bottom of the second page of your resume Why “would be buried”? And to be precise: Why not “would have been buried”?

3- Without SuperM, I would never have trusted my memory to keep a word for 10 days. Why “would never trusted”? And to be precise: Why not “would never trust”?

4- People in the area had never seen this phenomenon before, but they also reported that there less mosquitoes than they would have expected, given the amount of standing water. Why “would have expected”? And to be precise: Why not “would expect”?

5- My life would have been completely empty without you. Assuming ‘without you=if you were not in my life”, is this sentence correct as well: My life would be completely empty without you (if you were not in my life)

Please forgive me if my question is a bit basic.

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It's a question of whether you're talking about something that happened in the past, or something that is happening presently.

There are fewer mosquitos than I would expect. (The expectation is happening right now.)

There are fewer mosquitos than I would have expected, but now I know it's because they just sprayed the area with mosquito repellent. (The expectation happened in the past.)

The would version is the more generic of the two, and can be used both for past and present pretty interchangeably. The would have version strongly implies the past.

When dealing with hypothetical situations, the wording affects whether you're talking about past or future.

My life would have been completely empty without you. (talking about a hypothetical past in which the person was never in your life)

My life would be completely empty without you. (talking about a hypothetical future in which the person is not in your life any longer)

Again, the would version can be used fairly interchangeably for both past or future, but the would have version strongly implies the past.

  • And may I ask, in this sentence: "There are fewer mosquitoes than I would have expected" if we can say instead: "There are fewer mosquitoes than I was expected"? – Amir Sep 21 '13 at 15:01
  • What about these two: There are fewer mosquitos than I expected / There are fewer mosquitos than I had expected? @Lynn – Kinzle B Apr 15 '14 at 4:14
  • @ZhanlongZheng - Those are equivalent IMHO, and both describe expectations in the past. The 'had' is redundant. – Lynn Apr 15 '14 at 19:05

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