At 03:50 of https://youtu.be/d1nuqpAULpE there is the following phrase: "when the group entered the cave at 8pm local time they would have been confident". I don't see any connotation of an unreal situation happened in the past, thus I don't understand why the narrator chose this grammar structure. Why did she say "would have been confident" instead of "were confident"?

Here is another very similar example https://youtu.be/xgKF2ZYBc2o at 0:40 the author says: "as I remember what this face would have meant to me as a kid" As a non-native speaker I would say "would mean / used to mean or meant" to denote the habitual situation in the past but not would have meant. Why has he said "would have meant"?

  • It's largely meaningless circumlocution. Some people will probably "rationalise" the implication of a hypothetical situation by saying the writer doesn't know for sure that they were confident (i.e. - if we could ascertain the truth, we would discover they were confident). But I would say they're mistaken. (Sod the circumlocution / hesitancy / hedging - I [do] say they're mistaken! :) Sep 28, 2022 at 10:45
  • @FumbleFingers "largely meaningless circumlocution" is the answer that appeals to me the most :D Sep 28, 2022 at 13:01

1 Answer 1


When they entered the cave they would have been confident.” Because of the following deaths, we have no record of how they felt and their confidence remains a matter of speculation and possibility and not of fact. Like many courageous folk they may have been fearful but in control of their fear; we may never know.

What his face would have meant to me as a kid” refers to feelings unrealised at the time that are now matters of possibility and not of fact.

The two examples are therefore similar in referring to possibility.

If I had recognised this earlier I would have answered earlier.

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