What is the difference between the two, are they intеrchangable?

I heard this dialogue in a movie:

  • Someone spilled coke on the transmitter
  • It was beer. I would think.

Could he just say "I think"?

  • 1
    There is a subtle but important difference between "I think." and "I would think." If the person says "It was beer, I think.", it is a straightforward statement about their thoughts on the matter. However "It was beer. I would think." means that the speaker would probably argue for beer (over Coke) if they were asked the question or put to the test. So it is not quite as much a contradiction of the person who said it was Coke. It is more polite speech, and also more measured, leaving a tiny amount of room for them to be wrong.
    – Cargill
    Dec 14, 2015 at 3:01
  • 'Would' always implies 'if'. The speaker was hedging because he didn't have all the facts.
    – AmI
    Dec 14, 2015 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


So, if he says in your example, "I think," the implication is that he's making the observation based on the evidence in front of him: the color, the smell...

If he says - as he did - "I would think" - it implies that he's making the assumption based on information arrived at prior to the event, like knowing the workers that were on duty are notorious drinkers, or that he knows there was a party that preceded their arrival.

  • Possibly, however I think that could also be the case if he had simply said "I think" - I'm not certain that "I would think" implies a firmer view of things, based on outside information. It could, but not necessarily.
    – Cargill
    Dec 14, 2015 at 3:10
  • I agree, it's not definitive. But that "more measured" language as you call it does carry an implication of... well, being measured, by having some not-obvious other info. Also: Not saying it's "firmer" per se, but just "I think" seems based on direct evidence, assessed on the spot, and "I would think" oozes with the sense that the info to say so is gleaned from some sources other than the evidence at hand. The next question after he says that might be, "Why? What do you know?" Just a thought.
    – Jack Roy
    Dec 14, 2015 at 3:20
  • Yes - agree with that reasoning.
    – Cargill
    Dec 14, 2015 at 5:18
  • I would think the use of would implies a changeableness to the answer. It suggests a but is coming or the thought is subject to change. I think seems more definitive, I would think implies things could change with more information.
    – Rxdoxx
    Dec 14, 2015 at 5:31
  • In the example, "it was beer I would think", means it could have been ale or stout but I think it was beer
    – Rxdoxx
    Dec 14, 2015 at 5:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.