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    #1

    '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.

  1. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #2

    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.

    • Member Info
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    #3

    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!

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