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  1. #1
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default in referring to past possibility may,might,could must

    This issue has been discussed a lot on this forum. Different text books seem to disagree on the level of certainty may,might and could convey. Here's what I've read in Andrea DeCapua " Grammar for Teachers. A Guide to American English for Native and Non-Native Speakers" Andrea DeCapua, Ed.D.
    College of New Rochelle New Rochelle, NY 10805 2008 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

    P.217
    SPEAKER A

    "Past situation----Brian is always in class. But he didn't come yesterday."

    SPEAKER B

    Low certainty-----He may have been sick. OR

    He might have been sick. OR

    He could have been sick.

    High certainty---- He must have been sick.


    1)So according to Ms Andrea "could have been" conveys more certainty than "might have been" and "may have been". What would be your opinion?

    2) Regarding "could have...".

    "*The context will usually indicate whether the speaker means possibility
    or ability; however, the distinction between the two meanings is not
    always clear-cut." Would you agree?
    Last edited by ostap77; 29-Apr-2011 at 12:53.

  2. #2
    nyota's Avatar
    nyota is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: in referring to past possibility may,might,could must

    ...................
    I'm not a teacher
    ...................

    Isn't it so that DeCapua just put may, might and could in one 'low certainty' category?

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This is what I've found in Advanced English Practice by B.D. Graver (1986):

    No statement was issued after yesterday's talks, but it is thought that the two parties may have reached agreement.
    Might and could suggest that the possibility is a little more remote.


    And a bit different examples but still referring to may/might/could:
    a) I may/might/could be wrong of course.
    b) The two parties may/might/could reach agreement tomorrow.


    Might represents the tentative form of may [...].
    Could is quite commonly used as an alternative to tentative might, as in (a) and (b).

  3. #3
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: in referring to past possibility may,might,could must

    Quote Originally Posted by nyota View Post
    ...................
    I'm not a teacher
    ...................

    Isn't it so that DeCapua just put may, might and could in one 'low certainty' category?

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This is what I've found in Advanced English Practice by B.D. Graver (1986):

    No statement was issued after yesterday's talks, but it is thought that the two parties may have reached agreement.
    Might and could suggest that the possibility is a little more remote.


    And a bit different examples but still referring to may/might/could:
    a) I may/might/could be wrong of course.
    b) The two parties may/might/could reach agreement tomorrow.


    Might represents the tentative form of may [...].
    Could is quite commonly used as an alternative to tentative might, as in (a) and (b).
    There was an arrow showing downwards. I couldn't draw it. It starts with "may have.." and goes down to the most certain "must have...".

    "E.
    “No one remembers seeing him at the briefing,” Collins continued, “but he could
    have been listening outside of the tent.”
    [Brockmann, S. (2004). Hot target (p. 11). New York: Ballantine.]

    Here's how she explains it
    "Excerpt E
    past possibility: could have been listening.
    ◦ The reference is to past possibility, not ability. This is an example of the past
    progressive: could + have + been + present participle"


    Here's about "might have....." vs "may have...."

    "D.
    Of course, the uptick in productivity growth might have been just another bubble.
    With the end of the bull market and the economic expansion of the 1990s, the end of
    the productivity miracle may be near as well.
    [Gerseman, O. (2004). Cowboy capitalism (pp. 34–35). Washington, DC: Cato
    Institute.]"

    "D.
    Of course, the uptick in productivity growth might have been just another bubble.
    With the end of the bull market and the economic expansion of the 1990s, the end of
    the productivity miracle may be near as well.
    [Gerseman, O. (2004). Cowboy capitalism (pp. 34–35). Washington, DC: Cato
    Institute.]
    Last edited by ostap77; 30-Apr-2011 at 23:23.

  4. #4
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: in referring to past possibility may,might,could must

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    There was an arrow showing downwards. I couldn't draw it. It starts with "may have.." and goes down to the most certain "must have...".

    "E.
    “No one remembers seeing him at the briefing,” Collins continued, “but he could
    have been listening outside of the tent.”
    [Brockmann, S. (2004). Hot target (p. 11). New York: Ballantine.]

    Here's how she explains it
    "Excerpt E
    past possibility: could have been listening.
    ◦ The reference is to past possibility, not ability. This is an example of the past
    progressive: could + have + been + present participle"


    Here's about "might have....." vs "may have...."

    "D.
    Of course, the uptick in productivity growth might have been just another bubble.
    With the end of the bull market and the economic expansion of the 1990s, the end of
    the productivity miracle may be near as well.
    [Gerseman, O. (2004). Cowboy capitalism (pp. 34–35). Washington, DC: Cato
    Institute.]"

    "D.
    Of course, the uptick in productivity growth might have been just another bubble.
    With the end of the bull market and the economic expansion of the 1990s, the end of
    the productivity miracle may be near as well.
    [Gerseman, O. (2004). Cowboy capitalism (pp. 34–35). Washington, DC: Cato
    Institute.]
    Would you agree to the content of post #1?

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