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

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1005. This poll is closed
  • This means he survived.

    268 26.67%
  • This means we don't know whether he is alive or dead.

    737 73.33%
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Thread: May\might 2

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  1. #1
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default May\might 2


  2. #2
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    Default Re: May\might 2

    hi tdol!

    I am for the first alternative?
    Why not? May be isn't clear if he survived or not??

  3. #3
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: May\might 2

    He may have died.

    This can be used in either an epistemic modal manner or a deontic modal manner so either is possible. 'may' used in the latter fashion, as a deontic denoting an admonishment is a much less likely collocation than 'could' or 'might', hence we have a greater tendency to view it as "a possibility that he died".

  4. #4
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    Default Re: May\might 2

    i think both are possible depending on the situation and the intonation the speaker uses while saying it. the first one will mean that he escaped close death and the second will imply uncertainity

  5. #5
    bessy1227 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: May\might 2

    hi,
    May i know the answer?

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: May\might 2

    He may have died in the accident.- current status unknown
    He might have died in the accident.- he survived, but there was a risk of death

    However, this distinction is being eroded and many speakers use 'may + have + past participle' with the second meaning.

  7. #7
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: May\might 2

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    He may have died.

    This can be used in either an epistemic modal manner or a deontic modal manner so either is possible. 'may' used in the latter fashion, as a deontic denoting an admonishment is a much less likely collocation than 'could' or 'might', hence we have a greater tendency to view it as "a possibility that he died".
    English verbs can be either marked for tense or modality. Expressions like deontic and epistemic might be difficult for some to understand. Deontic can be labelled as intrinsic modality i.e. agents have direct control as with permissions, obligations and volitions (intentions). Extrinsic is an epistemic modality related to assessments of liklihood such possibility, necessity and prediction.But as you pointed out sometimes intrinsic and extrinsic modalities can be expressed by the same modal verb and therefore be ambigious. Intrinsic modality has usually a human being as an agent and describes an activity (dynamnic verbs). Extrinsic modality has usually a non-human agent used with (stative) verbs. Die is a dynamic verb.
    Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 30-Jan-2011 at 12:07.

  8. #8
    billmcd is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: May\might 2

    Context. Context. Context.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: May\might 2

    I believe both are correct in spoken english depending on the part the speaker stresses.

  10. #10
    be real is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: May\might 2

    This means we don't know whether he is alive or dead.

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