Usage of “would have” in English

It can be difficult to explain how you use this little complex combination of two words, even to native speakers.

Would is a verb, the past of will. Have is also a verb. If you want to know a lot more about verbs, go to the verbs page.

In fact, most native speakers know how to use these two words intuitively, but if you ask them to explain it, it won’t be easy.

Try to understand this: have turns would into the perfect tense, so the sentences naturally take a perfect tense shape.

The best way to understand the usage of “would have” in English is to look at some examples.

  • Yes Mr. Jerry, it was a horrible thing to do and the consequences will be dire. But remember, almost anybody would have done it.

  • The poverty rate would have fallen to 2% if we had simply not elected this incompetent buffoon in the first place.

  • I don’t believe that Timmy would have eaten the spinach no matter how you prepared it. He just hates vegetables and I don’t know what else I can do.

  • Our friends would have learned something from him if he wasn’t such an idiot.

  • Courageous soldiers would have flown to action, but he was happy to stay put and do nothing at all for his comrades.

  • I would have kept my big mouth shut if I knew that she was going to attack my beliefs like that.

  • Yes, I would have destroyed the world for her.

And finally, the Scooby Doo classic:

  • I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!