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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    may and might

    Hello.

    I've already learn the language English for 2 months and I would know what is the difference between may and might?

    Thank you for your answer!

    Ciao
    Caius

  2. RonBee's Avatar
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    #2


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    #3

    Re: Caius

    Please verify my understanding.

    May - Present tense
    Might - Past tense


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    #4

    Wink Re: Caius

    Quote Originally Posted by adrictai View Post
    Please verify my understanding.

    May - Present tense
    Might - Past tense

    Might is also regarded as the past form of the present form of may (especially when it comes to reported speech).


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    #5

    Re: Caius

    Thanks, engee30.

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    #6

    Re: Caius

    Quote Originally Posted by adrictai View Post
    Please verify my understanding.

    May - Present tense
    Might - Past tense

    Presently it eludes me how you can use might as the past tense of may.



    • Join Date: Oct 2006
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    #7

    Re: may and might

    thanks RonBee for your links.


    Please verify my understanding on 2 sentences below:-
    1. May I use your phone?
    - Ask for single use permission.

    2. Might I use you phone?
    - Ask for recurrent permission.

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    #8

    Re: may and might

    Quote Originally Posted by adrictai View Post
    thanks RonBee for your links.


    Please verify my understanding on 2 sentences below:-
    1. May I use your phone?
    - Ask for single use permission.

    2. Might I use you phone?
    - Ask for recurrent permission.
    I don't think there is any such distinction between may I and might I.

    May I use your phone to call home? = a request for single use permission
    May I use your phone while I am staying here? = a request for recurrent use permission

    ("Might I" seems to me to be British English.)

    ~R


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #9

    Re: Caius

    Quote Originally Posted by adrictai View Post
    Please verify my understanding.

    May - Present tense
    Might - Past tense

    This is not true for modern English, Adrictai. In modern English, all modal verbs are tenseless. Modal verbs carry modal meaning into sentences and the tense is shown in other ways.

    The test for this is that there isn't a native English speaker alive that can create a sentence where 'might' acts as the past tense of 'may'. If it can't be done in English, we know that it isn't true.

    The most important difference is; 'might, as noted by Bartleby's, is;

    b. Used to indicate a possibility or probability that is weaker than may:

    When we want to discuss past time situations with a modal, we need,

    Subject + modal + have + PP

    He must have been there.

    He may/might/could have been there.

    Because 'might' is weaker in probability/possibility than 'may', it is used as a more deferential/more polite question.
    Last edited by riverkid; 13-Oct-2007 at 19:39.

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    #10

    Re: may and might

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    This is not true for modern English, Adrictai.
    This seems to be a case where the dictionaries (at least, those online dictionaries I have consulted) say one thing and actual usage says another. Curious.



    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    In modern English, all modal verbs are tenseless. Modal verbs carry modal meaning into sentences and the tense is shown in other ways.

    The test for this is that there isn't a native English speaker alive that can create a sentence where 'might' acts as the past tense of 'may'. If it can't be done in English, we know that it isn't true.

    The most important difference is; 'might, as noted by Bartleby's, is;

    b. Used to indicate a possibility or probability that is weaker than may:

    When we want to discuss past time situations with a modal, we need,

    Subject + modal + have + PP

    He must have been there.

    He may/might/could have been there.

    Because 'might' is weaker in probability/possibility than 'may', it is used as a more deferential/more polite question.
    Thank you for your contribution. I agree with your analysis. The reason I can't come up with a past tense usage for may is that there simply isn't one.

    ~R

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