View Poll Results: He might have died in the accident.

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  • This means he survived.

    393 35.82%
  • This means we don't know whether he is alive or dead.

    704 64.18%
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Thread: May\might

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  1. #1
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default May\might


  2. #2
    RonBee's Avatar
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    He could have died = It was a possibility, but it didn't happen
    He might have died = We don't know what happened, but it is a possibility that he died

    (Perhaps it is an AE/BE difference, but I don't know.)

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    Default Re: May\might

    Your RonBee has it right . Again.

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    I think it is, as I'd use them the other way around. I find it amazing just how many differences there are between the two.

  5. #5
    CitySpeak Guest

    Default Re: May\might

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol

    It can mean both. Only the context would tell which meaning it is.


    You might recall that I had some "might" ideas some time ago.



    8)

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    In BE, we tend to use it with a single meaning, though some would use it for both.

  7. #7
    CitySpeak Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    In BE, we tend to use it with a single meaning, though some would use it for both.

    I think, "He could have died in that accident." is the more common way of expressing such an idea. Though, I can still imagine "might" being used as well.


    he could have = but he didn't

  8. #8
    darren Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    I think it is, as I'd use them the other way around. I find it amazing just how many differences there are between the two.
    Tdol teacher, I didn't get what you meant 'I'd use them the other way around'. Did you mean that the usage is opposite of AE in BE? Need further details.

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    In BE, the following would be used:

    1- He might have died. (he survived an incident where there was a possiblility of dying)
    2- He may have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)

    However, the distinction is being eroded and many people now are using 'may' for the fisrt meaning.

  10. #10
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: May\might

    He could have died.

    This could/can mean two things [maybe more]

    "It was a possibility, but it didn't happen"

    OR

    "There is a possiblity that he died but I don't know".


    He might have died.

    This could also mean two things [maybe more]

    "We don't know what happened, but there is a SMALL possibility that he died"

    OR

    it can be used as an admonishment,

    "How could you kids be so stupid as to try that stunt?" He might have died.

    'may' can also be used in this fashion to admonish; "he may have died" but it is much less likely that either 'might' or 'could'.

    In pure speculation, ie. when these modals are used as epistemic predictors [modals of certainty], when we use 'could', all we say is, "There's a possibility but my 'could', in and of itself, doesn't state how strong a possibility.

    'Might', on the other hand, confines the range of possibility from a miniscule to a small chance that something happened, will happen, is happening now, or happens all the time.



    ++++++++++++++++++

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    In BE, the following would be used:
    1- He might have died. (he survived an incident where there was a possiblility of dying)
    2- He may have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)
    However, the distinction is being eroded and many people now are using 'may' for the fisrt meaning.
    That's what some believe but it's simply not how English works, Tdol. In a purely epistemic sense when modals are being used to describe differing levels of speaker certainty, the only difference between 'might' and 'may' is that 'might' shows a speaker who is less certain.

    1- He might have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)

    Lower level of certainty than 'may'.

    2- He may have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)

    A higher level of certainty than 'might'.

    [An even higher level of certainty becomes, "He probably has died", and an even higher level, "He almost certainly has died" which under the right circumstances, could morph into "He must have died".]

    This distinction that some feel is being eroded has actually never existed. The people who think that's the case are confusing epistemic modal meaning with deontic modal meaning.

    As the old saying goes, you've gotta compare apples to apples.
    Last edited by riverkid; 19-Aug-2006 at 22:09.

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