Poll: He may have died in the accident.

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Thread: May\might 2

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


  2. #2
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    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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    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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    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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    Re: May\might 2

    hi,
    May i know the answer?

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    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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    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 13:07.

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

    Context. Context. Context.

  9. #9
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    Re: May\might 2

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

  10. #10
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    Re: May\might 2

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

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