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Thread: might

  1. #1
    aysaa is offline Senior Member
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    Default might

    Hi,

    I have been told that when the main clause is in the past, the following subordinate clause will have might. For example:

    -She knew that he might travel to Italy next year.

    Howerver, I have seen a sentence narrated in past tense in this internet site, and I would like to ask if the usage of 'might' is OK or not. If not, must I use 'could' instead of it?

    Medieval Towns

    -Towns were dirty places to live in. There was no sewage system as we would know it today. Many people threw toilet waste into the street along with other rubbish. Rats were very common in towns and cities and lead to the Black Death of 1348 to 1349. Towns might use pigs to eat what rubbish there was. Water was far from clean as a local river would have been polluted with toilet waste thrown into it from villages both upstream and downstream.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Grumpy's Avatar
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    Default Re: might

    Quote Originally Posted by aysaa View Post
    Hi,

    I have been told that when the main clause is in the past, the following subordinate clause will have might. For example:

    -She knew that he might travel to Italy next year.

    Howerver, I have seen a sentence narrated in past tense in this internet site, and I would like to ask if the usage of 'might' is OK or not. If not, must I use 'could' instead of it?

    Medieval Towns

    -Towns were dirty places to live in. There was no sewage system as we would know it today. Many people threw toilet waste into the street along with other rubbish. Rats were very common in towns and cities and lead to the Black Death of 1348 to 1349. Towns might use pigs to eat what rubbish there was. Water was far from clean as a local river would have been polluted with toilet waste thrown into it from villages both upstream and downstream.

    Thanks.
    Using "might" there is fine. Or you could phrase it as "Some towns used pigs to....".

    However, I can't see how any town's local river could have been polluted with toilet waste thrown into it from downstream.
    I'm not a teacher of English, but I have spoken it for (almost) all of my life....

  3. #3
    aysaa is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: might

    'Might' can be used as past tense of 'may' because this sentence was narrated ib past, am I right? What I mean is that we cannot use 'might' without any context narrated in past like this:

    -You might visit your parents yesterday.

    It is wrong, but in a context used past tense:

    -Towns were dirty places to live in. There was no sewage system as we would know it today. Many people threw toilet waste into the street along with other rubbish. Rats were very common in towns and cities and lead to the Black Death of 1348 to 1349. Towns might use pigs to eat what rubbish there was.

    It is OK. Am I right?

  4. #4
    aysaa is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: might

    Please, it is very important to me, because I haven't ever seen this usage of 'might' in the grammar books I read.

  5. #5
    Esgaleth's Avatar
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    Default Re: might

    Have you checked this thread?
    Last edited by Esgaleth; 28-Mar-2013 at 20:17.

  6. #6
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: might

    Quote Originally Posted by Esgaleth View Post
    Have you checked this thread?
    Well spotted/remembered, Esgaleth.

    I think my 'implied reported speech' there might work here:

    In some parts of the world today, towns may use pigs to eat what rubbish there is.,
    In the fourteenth century, towns might use pigs to eat what rubbish there was.

    However, as aysaa suggested, this works only with a suitable past-time narrative context. Thus we can say:

    Luke did not know what he was going to do yesterday when he woke up. He might visit his parents, or he might spring-clean his flat.

    Note that we could use 'would' instead of 'might' in the first sentence to suggest greater certainty that this happened. We can't in the second, because there is no certainty, but we could say:

    Luke made up his mind as soon as he woke up: he would visit his parents.


    However, Luke might/would visit his parents yesterday does not work. We have insufficient context to prepare us for the 'it was possible/certain that he would ...' idea.

  7. #7
    konungursvia's Avatar
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    Default Re: might

    Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy View Post
    However, I can't see how any town's local river could have been polluted with toilet waste thrown into it from downstream.
    It only says the river was polluted by waste thrown from villages, which were situated upstream and downstream. It doesn't mean waste necessarily travels upstream. It means villages all along the river, both north and south of here, contribute to the pollution.

  8. #8
    Grumpy's Avatar
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    Default Re: might

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    It only says the river was polluted by waste thrown from villages, which were situated upstream and downstream. It doesn't mean waste necessarily travels upstream. It means villages all along the river, both north and south of here, contribute to the pollution.
    In that case, why include "..both upstream and downstream" at all? Why not just say "a local river would have been polluted with toilet waste thrown into it from villages"? If the "upstream and downstream" are not relevant, they should not be mentioned.
    I'm not a teacher of English, but I have spoken it for (almost) all of my life....

  9. #9
    konungursvia's Avatar
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    Default Re: might

    Towns both upstream and downstream pollute the river. Perhaps people who live on a river think in those Cartesian terms. It's no more redundant than most conversational English.

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