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    #1

    Might or might have?

    Hi experts,

    I have always been told that might is the past form of may, but when I do an exercise like this:
    She might be ill yesterday.

    the correct answer turns out to be:
    She might have been ill yesterday.

    Is this because might has been too interested in the present that it abandoned the past completely?

    Thank you!

  1. Piscean's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Might or might have?

    For many native speakers today, there is little (or no) difference in meaning between may and might. They both express the present possibility of a present or future situation: He may/might be in London now. He may/might go to London tomorrow. Some people do not use may at all.

    The present possibility of a past occurrence is expressed by may have - He may have arrived yesterday = It is possible that he arrived yesterday. Some speakers use might have here. A past unreal possibility of a past occurrence is expressed by might have - If Obama had not produced his birth certificate, he might have lost his second election = It was possible that he would lose. Unfortunately some people use may have here.

    The only time might is used consistently as a past tense of may is in backshifted reported speech (for those people who use may):

    Corbyn supporter: "Corbyn may win the leadership election,"
    The Corbyn supporter said that Corbyn might win the leadership election.

    That probably seems confusing. Sorry, but that's the way it is. Your sentence should be: She may/might have been ill yesterday.
    Last edited by Piscean; 06-Oct-2015 at 07:06. Reason: typo fixed

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Might or might have?

    "The Corbyn supporter said that Corbyn might leadership win the election."

    In the next set, change "you" to "your" in the third sentence.

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    #4

    Re: Might or might have?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Hello, Creamcake:

    I have found some extra information that may interest you.

    One scholar is very upset because he says that some native speakers do not know the difference between "might have" + past participle and "may have" + past participle.

    Based on his ideas, I have made up these sentences:

    1. TheParser might have lived if the ambulance had arrived on time. By the time it arrived, however, TheParser was dead.

    2. There's been a plane crash. TheParser may have lived through it, but we're not sure yet.


    The scholar gives this "rule":

    Might have + past participle = could have happened but didn't.
    May have + past participle = could have happened but we don't know yet.

    Credit: John Honey, Language is Power (1997), pages 158 -159.

  3. Piscean's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Might or might have?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    The scholar gives this "rule":

    Might have + past participle = could have happened but didn't.
    May have + past participle = could have happened but we don't know yet.
    That's the way it used to be. However, many people do not follow the 'rule', as I noted in post #2. I started keeping a collection of 'may have + past participle' sentences for 'could have happened but didn't' that I saw or heard in news reports some time ago. I came across so many that I gave up. I still advise learners to use may have and might have. in this way, but tell them not to be surprised if some native speakers don't.

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