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"?

  • 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 '15 at 3:01
  • 'Would' always implies 'if'. The speaker was hedging because he didn't have all the facts. – AmI Dec 14 '15 at 19:49

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 '15 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 '15 at 3:20
  • Yes - agree with that reasoning. – Cargill Dec 14 '15 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 '15 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 '15 at 5:38

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