Who Would Have Thought: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
February 3, 2024

The phrase "who would have thought" is often used to express surprise or amazement about something that has happened or been discovered, especially when the outcome is unexpected or contrary to what was previously believed or assumed.

In short:

  • It expresses surprise or amazement at an unexpected outcome.
  • It is often used when something happens that is contrary to what was believed or assumed.

What Does "Who Would Have Thought" Mean?

The phrase "who would have thought" conveys a sense of wonder or disbelief about a situation, fact, or event that seemed unlikely or surprising. It's a rhetorical question that doesn't require a literal answer. Instead, it's used to express that the speaker is surprised or intrigued by the outcome. For example, if a long-shot candidate wins an election, someone might say, "Who would have thought they'd win?"

More about the phrase's meaning:

  • It indicates that the outcome is contrary to expectations.
  • The phrase can be used in both positive and negative contexts.
  • It often reflects a change in understanding or perception.
  • It can be used in casual conversation, as well as in literary and rhetorical contexts.

Where Does "Who Would Have Thought" Come From?

The expression "Who would have thought?" is a rhetorical question that conveys surprise or skepticism. It originates from the verb "think," which in Old English was "þencan," meaning to envision, ponder, or plan in the mind. The past tense, "thought," comes from Old English "þoht." When we say "who would have thought," we're using the past perfect tense of "think," which refers to an action that was finished in the past, often with an unexpected outcome.

10 Examples of "Who Would Have Thought" in Sentences

Here are some examples to illustrate the usage of this phrase:

  • After seeing the quiet student's amazing performance, the teacher said, "Who would have thought he had such talent?"
  • Screw you, who would have thought my foolish actions would lead me to such a delightful outcome?
  • Who would have thought I would have learned about such a fascinating topic from the most unlikely source?
  • Reflecting on a surprising turn of events in a movie, a viewer might say, "Who would have thought it would end like that?"
  • "Who would have thought this small town would become a major tourist attraction?" wondered the old resident.
  • When I'm sure I knew what would happen, who would have thought I would have jumped the gun and missed the mark entirely?
  • After a surprising sports match result, a fan might say, "Who would have thought they could win against such odds?"
  • Noticing a sudden change in the weather, someone might comment, "Who would have thought it would snow in April?
  • It looks like things aren't what they seem. Who would have thought this seemingly mundane situation would turn into such an exciting adventure?
  • It was fun while it lasted; who would have thought this fleeting moment would leave such an indelible mark on my memory?

Examples of "Who Would Have Thought" in Pop Culture

This phrase is commonly found in various forms of pop culture, such as movies, TV shows, and books, often used to highlight a plot twist or unexpected event.

Some examples include:

  • "Who Would Have Thought" by Boyz II Men is a song that reflects on the unexpected turns in life and relationships.
  • Darren Hayes' song "Who Would Have Thought" from the album "This Delicate Thing We've Made" explores themes of surprise and the unforeseen aspects of life's journey.
  • "Who Would Have Thought? Finding Identity, Love, and Purpose in Unexpected Moments" by Acel Bisa-van Ommen, Brian Villavicencio (Illustrator): This book delves into finding one's identity, love, and purpose through unexpected life events.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Who Would Have Thought"

Alternative phrases that convey a similar meaning include:

  • Who would've guessed?
  • Hard to believe
  • Unexpectedly
  • Surprisingly
  • Who knew?
  • It's astonishing that
  • It's surprising that

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Who Would Have Thought":

  • Is "who would have thought" a question or a statement?

It is a rhetorical question used as a statement to express surprise or disbelief about an unexpected situation.

  • Can "who would have thought" be used in formal writing?

Yes, it can be used in formal writing, especially in literary or rhetorical contexts, to convey surprise or irony.

  • Is the phrase positive or negative?

The phrase is neutral and can be used in both positive and negative contexts, depending on the situation.

  • Can the phrase be used sarcastically?

Yes, "who would have thought" can be used sarcastically to imply that the outcome was actually predictable or not surprising.

  • Is the phrase "who would have thought" outdated?

No, the phrase is still in common use and understood in contemporary English.

  • Are there any variations of this phrase?

Yes, variations like "who would've guessed" or "who knew" convey similar meanings.

  • How is "who would have thought" different from "I never would have thought"?

"I never would have thought" is a personal statement of surprise, whereas "who would have thought" is more general and can be used to express a collective sense of surprise.

  • Can it be used in both past and present contexts?

Yes, "who would have thought" can refer to both past and present unexpected situations.

  • Does it always express a positive surprise?

No, it can express surprise in both positive and negative situations.

  • Can the phrase be used to express disbelief?

Yes, it can be used to express disbelief about an unexpected or unlikely situation.

Final Thoughts About "Who Would Have Thought"

The phrase "who would have thought" is a flexible and expressive tool in the English language, often used to articulate surprise, disbelief, or amazement in various situations. Its versatility makes it suitable for a range of contexts, from casual conversations to literary narratives.

To recap:

  • It is commonly used to express surprise or disbelief about unexpected outcomes.
  • The phrase is versatile, fitting in both positive and negative contexts.
  • It can be used in formal and informal settings, both spoken and written English.

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