would have + past participle

English translation: It is reasonable to conclude that it happened; it must have happened

GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:would have + past participle
Selected answer:It is reasonable to conclude that it happened; it must have happened
Entered by: Charles Davis

19:53 Dec 11, 2013
English language (monolingual) [PRO]
Law/Patents - Law (general)
English term or phrase: would have + past participle
Dear colleagues,

I am currently translating the transcript of a cross-examination in court, and the witness repeatedly uses "would have + past participle" in her answers (she is from NZ).

I will give you a few examples:

1)
Q: Did you talk about that agreement with any other person?
A: If it is in the document, I *would have talked* about it.

2)
Q: It looks as though this is a brief from you.
A: No, my barrister would have written it, I would have (...)

3)
Q: Did you see the letter?
A: I would have seen it.

4)
Q: You did not write your name down?
A: I mean, I would just have signed the deal.

Questions:
a) I suppose in each of these examples "would have + pp" simply refers to the past. How would you paraphrase the meaning of this use of "would have"?
Does the structure simply denote a past tense or is there an element of probability (I probably saw it...)
b) Is this some specific use common among New Zealanders?

Thank you for your input!
innsbruck
It is reasonable to conclude that it happened; it must have happened
Explanation:
"Would have" is not being used here as a straightforward conditional. Nor is is directly stating that these things happened. It is saying that one can assume that they happened, because in such circumstances that is what naturally would happen.

In the first case, for example, "If it is in the document, I would have talked about it" means since it is in the document, it follows that I must have talked about it. This implies "yes, I did talk about it", but does not actually say so; it is saying, in effect, that there is not need to ask me whether I talked about it, because since it is in the document I must have talked about it.

Similar arguments apply to the other examples. "I/he would have done X" is being used to mean that doing X is what can be expected in those circumstances, so anyone would tend to do it.

It's a bit like the famous quotation from Mandy Rice-Davies about the Profumo trial:

'When the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her, she replied, "He would, wouldn't he?"'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandy_Rice-Davies

Meaning that that is what you would expect him to do.

Whether New Zealanders are particularly fond of this usage I have no idea.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2013-12-11 21:48:46 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Tony is right, and as I have just replied to him this use of the conditional is evasive. The witness is avoiding saying that these things did happen. She is implying that they did, but not taking responsibility for stating that they did. It is as if she were saying that she does not remember.
Selected response from:

Charles Davis
Spain
Local time: 09:17
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



SUMMARY OF ALL EXPLANATIONS PROVIDED
4 +9It is reasonable to conclude that it happened; it must have happened
Charles Davis


  

Answers


1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +9
It is reasonable to conclude that it happened; it must have happened


Explanation:
"Would have" is not being used here as a straightforward conditional. Nor is is directly stating that these things happened. It is saying that one can assume that they happened, because in such circumstances that is what naturally would happen.

In the first case, for example, "If it is in the document, I would have talked about it" means since it is in the document, it follows that I must have talked about it. This implies "yes, I did talk about it", but does not actually say so; it is saying, in effect, that there is not need to ask me whether I talked about it, because since it is in the document I must have talked about it.

Similar arguments apply to the other examples. "I/he would have done X" is being used to mean that doing X is what can be expected in those circumstances, so anyone would tend to do it.

It's a bit like the famous quotation from Mandy Rice-Davies about the Profumo trial:

'When the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her, she replied, "He would, wouldn't he?"'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandy_Rice-Davies

Meaning that that is what you would expect him to do.

Whether New Zealanders are particularly fond of this usage I have no idea.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2013-12-11 21:48:46 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Tony is right, and as I have just replied to him this use of the conditional is evasive. The witness is avoiding saying that these things did happen. She is implying that they did, but not taking responsibility for stating that they did. It is as if she were saying that she does not remember.

Charles Davis
Spain
Local time: 09:17
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 136
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Tony M: Yes, it's a way of avoiding saying directly 'yes!' — whilst leaving open the possibility of casting doubt on the initial assertion.
12 mins
  -> Exactly: these are evasive answers and the witness should have been pressed to clarify them. Thanks, Tony

agree  Yvonne Gallagher: definitely evasive
1 hr
  -> Thanks, gallagy :)

agree  jccantrell: With Tony on this, sounds like she was well prepped by a lawyer. The lawyer should preface each question with, "Please answer yes or no. ..."
1 hr
  -> I agree; either she was coached or she has a talent for this kind of thing! Thanks, JC.

neutral  airmailrpl: use of the conditional is evasive..these are evasive answers The witness is avoiding answering
2 hrs
  -> Absolutely. That's what I said (among other things).

agree  David Hollywood: can only agree with what's been said so far
4 hrs
  -> Thanks, David :)

agree  Ashutosh Mitra
7 hrs
  -> Thanks, Ashutosh!

agree  Charlotte Farrell
13 hrs
  -> Thanks, Charlotte :)

agree  Anita Hedman
19 hrs
  -> Thanks, anihed :)

agree  Teresa Reinhardt: avoiding self-incrimination
1 day 2 hrs
  -> Yes, good point; that's probably what's behind it. Thanks, Teresa ;)

agree  Natalia Volkova
1 day 12 hrs
  -> Thanks, Natalia :)
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