# Thread: May Might Can Could

1. ## May Might Can Could

It may/might rain tonight.
Is it grammatically right to say "It can/could rain tonight"? If yes, what's the difference in conceptual meaning?

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## Re: May Might Can Could

They are all grammatically correct but they convey different degrees of probability:

It can rain tonight = It is theorically possible.

It could rain tonight = It is possible but not particularly likely.

It may rain tonight = There is a chance that this will happen. It is a factual possibility (compare with the theoretical possibility of 'can')

It might rain tonight = It expresses a weaker probability, there is more reserve or doubt on the part of the speaker

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## Re: May Might Can Could

Originally Posted by beachboy
It may/might rain tonight.
Is it grammatically right to say "It can/could rain tonight"? If yes, what's the difference in conceptual meaning?
It may rain tonight or it might rain tonight are both OK for me.

It can rain tonight might mean "I don't care if it rains or not." Or in other words, "I will allow it to rain" or "It can rain tonight for all I care."

It could rain tonight means the same as it might rain tonight.

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## Re: May Might Can Could

They are all grammatically correct but they convey different degrees of probability:

It can rain tonight = It is theorically possible.

It could rain tonight = It is possible but not particularly likely.

It may rain tonight = There is a chance that this will happen. It is a factual possibility (compare with the theoretical possibility of 'can')

It might rain tonight = It expresses a weaker probability, there is more reserve or doubt on the part of the speaker
I agree with everything you say except that I don't think "It can rain tonight" is proper English, except in the very unusual context offered by cclaff.

Lou

5. ## Re: May Might Can Could

Yes, I managed to understand the difference! But I canīt imagine a situation in which somebody would say, as a reply: " It can rain tonight". Would it suggest a specific mood on the part of the speaker?
Thanks to all of you

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## Re: May Might Can Could

Originally Posted by louhevly
I agree with everything you say except that I don't think "It can rain tonight" is proper English, except in the very unusual context offered by cclaff.

Lou
I'm not knocking you, Lou, but 'proper', to my mind, is too loaded a word to describe this ungrammatical use of 'can'.

'can' is used for a general possibility,

It can rain there anytime.

but not a specific one, as in this case. For that we use could/may or might. There is no epistemic 'can' for this type of situation. As noted by CClaff and reiterated by Lou.

Beachboy wrote:
Yes, I managed to understand the difference! But I can't imagine a situation in which somebody would say, as a reply: " It can rain tonight". Would it suggest a specific mood on the part of the speaker?
Yes, BB, it does show a specific mood on the part of the speaker as shown by CClaff in his/her examples.

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## Re: May Might Can Could

Originally Posted by riverkid
I'm not knocking you, Lou, but 'proper', to my mind, is too loaded a word to describe this ungrammatical use of 'can'.
What do you see as the difference between "ungrammatical" and "not proper"?

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## Re: May Might Can Could

Originally Posted by louhevly
What do you see as the difference between "ungrammatical" and "not proper"?
Well, Lou, 'not proper' has sometimes, [often?] been used to describe collocations that are/were both grammatical and proper English. It smacks of personal opinion as a way to measure what language is. Personal opinion is, to my mind, a poor way to describe language.
Last edited by riverkid; 19-Jan-2008 at 02:47.

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## Re: May Might Can Could

Defining ungrammatical is much more problematic. An ungrammatical sentence is one where the order of the words makes the sentence impossible to understand. We see this all the time on this site when non-native English speakers write in word-for-word translations of their native language. Modern linguists know that native speakers are incapable of creating ungrammatical sentences. Even the most profoundly mentally handicapped individual would never utter a sentence like "Shoes myself tied I by."

A sentence like, "We ain't never done seen nothing like that there," is not ungrammatical because every native English speaker knows exactly what it means. It is, however, non-standard because it violates some of the rules of the dialect called Standard English. The sentence does not violate any of the rules of the native English dialect in which it is spoken; therefore, it is grammatical.

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## Re: May Might Can Could

Hear, hear, hear, hear, hear, hear, hear, Mike!

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