Results 1 to 3 of 3
  1. #1
    wace is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • Italian
      • Home Country:
      • Italy
      • Current Location:
      • Italy
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    353
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default 'may' in reported speech

    Hi everyone
    Could somebody tell me if may becomes MIGHT or, preferably, COULD in the following sentence:

    Susan: 'May I use your phone, Mr Bradshaw?
    Susan asked Mr Bradshaw if she might/could use his phone.

    I haven't been able to find a convincing rule in any of the grammar or usage books where I've checked.
    Thanks.

  2. #2
    konungursvia's Avatar
    konungursvia is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    4,804
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: 'may' in reported speech

    It is the law of accord of tenses: I think he is right... I thought he was right.

    Might is an old past tense of may, just as could is an old past tense for can. So, to change the tense may > might, can > could, to be consistent, although there is little difference in actual outcome.

  3. #3
    wace is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • Italian
      • Home Country:
      • Italy
      • Current Location:
      • Italy
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    353
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: 'may' in reported speech

    Thank you.
    I know there's virtually no difference in terms of meaning. I was just wondering if technically, may should always become might.
    I visited an English site a few days ago showing a chart with all the tense transformations and, what do you know, may (permission) becomes could in modern English usage. That's what set me thinking...
    Anyway, thanks heaps for your help!

Similar Threads

  1. reported speech
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 20-Feb-2009, 12:53
  2. [Grammar] Reported Speech Clarification
    By Navin in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 04-Sep-2008, 07:32
  3. Simple reported speech
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 13-Mar-2008, 22:51
  4. If-clause, passive, reported speech
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 12-Mar-2008, 08:43
  5. Some questions about Reported speech
    By suteja in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 27-May-2007, 09:58

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •