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Thread: Could/Might

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    #31

    Re: Could/Might

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Many Americans would use can. Many of their mothers would correct them and tell them to use may. The latter is considered more polite in some circles.

    I hope the test also accepted may.
    In another question, it gave four options ''may'' ''might'' ''could'' and ''can'' in '' ---- speak to Tom, Please?'' I used ''can'' again.

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    #32

    Re: Could/Might

    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Adams View Post
    In another question, it gave four options ''may'' ''might'' ''could'' and ''can'' in '' ---- speak to Tom, Please?'' I used ''can'' again.
    May is more polite, but many native speakers use "can". I'd advise you to use the former.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #33

    Re: Could/Might

    It could rain later.
    It might rain later.


    The difference is expressed very well by the quote below, from post #19:

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    "Could" means it's not objectively impossible; "might" means you think there's a reasonable chance it will happen.
    Personally, I don't think it makes much sense to say that one or the other sentences expresses 'stronger' possibility. I see them as different kinds of possibility. The important difference between the two sentences above is that only the second is clearly a prediction. That is why might is the best answer in a scenario where somebody advises taking an umbrella.

    Although the second sentence could be used as a prediction, it isn't really good for that. We use could as a way of saying what is very generally possible. Look:

    A meteor could fall out of the sky and land on your head.

    I'm not making a prediction here, I'm just saying that this eventuality is not technically impossible. You can read it as a hypothetical possibility. If you say this sentence to me, I would respond by saying "Yes, true." Now compare this:

    A meteor might fall out of the sky and land on your head.

    Now you're presenting this outcome as a real possibility. If you say this sentence to me, I would respond by saying "Don't be silly."
    Last edited by jutfrank; 20-May-2020 at 14:24.

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    #34

    Re: Could/Might

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    It could rain later.
    It might rain later.


    The difference is expressed very well by the quote below, from post #19:



    Personally, I don't think it makes much sense to say that one or the other sentences expresses 'stronger' possibility. I see them as different kinds of possibility. The important difference between the two sentences above is that only the second is clearly a prediction. That is why might is the best answer in a scenario where somebody advises taking an umbrella.

    Although the second sentence could be used as a prediction, it isn't really good for that. We use could as a way of saying what is very generally possible. Look:

    A meteor could fall out of the sky and land on your head.

    I'm not making a prediction here, I'm just saying that this eventuality is not technically impossible. You can read it as a hypothetical possibility. If you say this sentence to me, I would respond by saying "Yes, true." Now compare this:

    A meteor might fall out of the sky and land on your head.

    Now you're presenting this outcome as a real possibility. If you say this sentence to me, I would respond by saying "Don't be silly."
    Well, as always I found the discussion more helpful than my books. One more question, if you please. When we are talking about polite requests, "may" is more polite than "can" "might" is too formal but what about "could" if you have to choose between "might" "could" or "may" which modal verb would you use?

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    #35

    Re: Could/Might

    Quote Originally Posted by Rachel Adams View Post
    When we are talking about polite requests, "may" is more polite than "can", "might" is too formal, but what about "could"? If you had to choose between "might", "could", or "may", which modal verb would you use?
    Where'd the commas go? "May" is always a good choice. "Could" and "can" can be acceptable in American English when used respectfully in combination with polite turns of phrase: Could I have a hot dog with mustard, please? — but the same words can be rude when delivered with different emphasis or in a different order: Could I please have a hot dog with mustard? Learners should stick with "may", but don't be shocked when you hear native speakers use the other modals.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #36

    Re: Could/Might

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Where'd the commas go? "May" is always a good choice. "Could" and "can" can be acceptable in American English when used respectfully in combination with polite turns of phrase: Could I have a hot dog with mustard, please? — but the same words can be rude when delivered with different emphasis or in a different order: Could I please have a hot dog with mustard? Learners should stick with "may", but don't be shocked when you hear native speakers use the other modals.
    Promise to be more careful with them next time. What are "polite turns of phrase?"

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    #37
    Typoman - writer of rongs

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    #38

    Re: Could/Might

    Unlike GoesStation, I would not recommend using may for polite requests. It isn't just more polite than could, it's somewhat deferential, as it has as part of its extrinsic meaning a plea for permission. Because of this, children are often taught to use it to instil a sense of respect for authority. It's also appropriate in similar authoritative power relationships.

    Don't use might, either, as it sounds overly formal and old-fashioned. For normal everyday purposes, just use could for polite requests.

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    #39

    Re: Could/Might

    I am as old-fashioned as GS. I use 'may'. I have nothing against 'can', but I use 'may'.
    Typoman - writer of rongs

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    #40

    Re: Could/Might

    I never, and would pretty much never, use may.

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