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    • Join Date: Jan 2007
    • Posts: 64
    #1

    grammar

    Is there any difference between these two sentences?
    ''He may have stayed at a friend's house''
    ''He might have stayed at a friend's house''
    Thanks in advance.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #2

    Re: grammar

    ''He may have stayed at a friend's house.''
    There is a strong possibility that he has stayed with a friend.

    ''He might have stayed at a friend's house.''
    There's a chance he could have stayed at a friend's place. I'm just trying to think up possibilities - I'm far from sure about it though.


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
    • Posts: 3,059
    #3

    Re: grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by erdogan kizilkale View Post
    Is there any difference between these two sentences?
    ''He may have stayed at a friend's house''
    ''He might have stayed at a friend's house''
    Thanks in advance.

    'might' is weaker than 'may' in the range of certainty, but all modals and semi-modals have to describe the range from 0 to 100% [we actually have ways to describe less than zero and greter than 100%]

    Take any modal of 100% certainty, let's use 'will' as an example. The percent ranges are not cast in stone. They merely represent an overall range that is expressed by the modals and periphrastic/semi-modals.

    100% I will go to work tomorrow.

    90-99% I almost certainly will go to work tomorrow.

    70-89% I very likely/probably will go to work tomorrow.

    51-69% I probably/likely will go to work tomorrow.

    26-50% I may go to work tomorrow.

    1-25% I might go to work tomorrow.

    0% I won't go to work tomorrow.

    Certain adverbs of intensity [there's no doubt, definitely, certainly, unquestionably, etc] can be added to discuss, as I mentioned, less than zero and greater than 100%.

  1. #4

    Re: grammar

    Riverkid, this is brilliant, and I congratulate you on how well you've thought it out.
    There's one point, though, where we don't agree.
    "I may go to work" sounds British to me. I'd say "I might go to work."

    What do you think? Would you, my fellow Canadian, use "may" freely in this sort of context?

    regards
    edward


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
    • Posts: 3,059
    #5

    Re: grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by baqarah131 View Post
    Riverkid, this is brilliant, and I congratulate you on how well you've thought it out.
    There's one point, though, where we don't agree.
    "I may go to work" sounds British to me. I'd say "I might go to work."

    What do you think? Would you, my fellow Canadian, use "may" freely in this sort of context?

    regards
    edward
    Thank you muchly, Edward. Absobloodylutely, I use it. , if that's the measure of certainty I want to express.

    Googled - exact phrase search - region designation canada

    Results 1 - 10 of about 60,100 English pages for "I might go".

    Results 1 - 10 of about 46,200 English pages for "I may go".


    Googled - exact phrase search - also clicked on "Pages from Canada"

    Results 1 - 10 of about 60,500 for "I might go".

    Results 1 - 10 of about 46,900 for "I may go".

    Results from the LGSWE show 'might' used more frequently than 'may' for prediction/certainty in speech.

    might - 800 occurrences per million words

    may - 200 occurrences per million words

    Fiction - might 880 per mill // may 400 per mill

    News - might 400 per mill // may 600 per mill

    Acad - might 600 per mill // may 2800 per mill

    regards
    r

    [that's as far as I can go with my left index finger without crossing to the other side of the realm]

  2. #6

    Re: grammar

    I've got nothing against the British (after all, Shakespeare was British), but when something sounds British to me, I'm not comfortable using it.

    "May" in all its usages seems to be on the way out. The may/can distinction, so popular with grammar teachers 50 years ago, has largely been abandoned.

    "Might" refers clearly to a vague possibility, while "may" is ambiguous. In my opinion it works at all only in the first person. "I may go to work tomorrow" does indicate a possibility, even if I wouldn't say it that way. But "You may go to work tomorrow" or "He may go to work" seem to indicate permission.

    You've found that "may" is used a lot, even in Canada, for future possibility, and I'm fascinated by the process you're using. I suggest that we both listen and see whether this is actually a usage that would come up in ordinary colloquial speech.

    regards
    edward


    [quote=riverkid;240360]Thank you muchly, Edward. Absobloodylutely, I use it. , if that's the measure of certainty I want to express.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #7

    Re: grammar

    Erdogan:

    Other than the calculation of probabilities in Statistical Mathematics, the human perception of possibility/probability is purely subjective. Let me assure you that the English language does not require that you carry statistical probability tables around with you for those conversations when you speak other than cold hard fact.
    Because of the subjective nature of this, one person's "may" is another person's "might".
    Last edited by David L.; 28-Dec-2007 at 10:55.

  3. #8

    Re: grammar

    Right on.
    I'm fascinated by the process riverkid uses to look at some of the issues.
    But the answer to many, many of the questions raised by students in this forum is the same: It's personal, it's subjective.

    regards
    edward

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Erdogan:

    Other than the calculation of probabilities in Statistical Mathematics, the human perception of possibility/probability is purely subjective. Let me assure you that the English language does not require that you carry statistical probability tables around with you for those conversations when you speak other than cold hard fact.
    Because of the subjective nature of this, one person's "may" is another person's "might".


    • Join Date: Aug 2006
    • Posts: 3,059
    #9

    Re: grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Erdogan:

    Other than the calculation of probabilities in Statistical Mathematics, the human perception of possibility/probability is purely subjective. Let me assure you that the English language does not require that you carry statistical probability tables around with you for those conversations when you speak other than cold hard fact.
    Because of the subjective nature of this, one person's "may" is another person's "might".
    I think I mentioned that, David. Because of the subjective nature of modals, they are after all, opinion words, one person's 'I/He/etc may go' could well be another person's 'I/He/etc definitely will go'. In fact, we know that for any given set of circumstances, there could be a person or any number of people who hold opinions ranging from -10% to 110%, representing every possible modal and -semi-modal.

    All these modals have to meet somewhere [a "24% might" is really no different than a "28% may".

    I said; "The percent ranges are not cast in stone. They merely represent an overall range that is expressed by the modals and periphrastic/semi-modals."

    Let me try to make it clearer. These ranges merely give students an idea of the relative positioning of one modal to another. Up to now all they've had is "might is the past tense of may", hardly an instructive idea as that leaves ESLs with the inability to use 'might' in the English language.

    The two weak modals, may & might, share the range below 50%, of that there is no doubt for the next section, 'probable' requires that something be more likely than not likely, which is denoted by 51% plus.

    Do we ever calculate a percentage of certainty and then apply a modal to it? Not in everyday speech because I believe this range is "built in", so it's not a conscious mathematical appraisal.

    But I think we can see some of this in weather reports and the like which often give ranges of probability.
    Last edited by riverkid; 29-Dec-2007 at 15:40.

  4. #10

    Re: grammar

    This has got me thinking.
    My first reaction was that may was more formal, and therefore almost automatically more British.

    riverkid mentioned weather reports. It occurred to me then that the weatherman could say, "Rain may begin by late evening" without sounding like Queen Elizabeth.

    But even after meditating through a sleepless night (just kidding), I still don't think that "may" denotes either a higher or lesser degree of probability.

    I may be wrong there.
    edward

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