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    #1

    Modals

    Hello,
    Is there any difference in meaning among these sentences or "be able to" just adds additional word to sentence without changing of meaning of the sentences?

    1. He might (may) be able to come tomorrow.
    2. He might (may) come tomorrow.
    3. Applicants for the job must be able to speak two foreign languages.
    4. Applicants for the job must speak two foreign languages.

    Thanks in advance.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
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    #2

    Re: Modals

    2. He might (may) come tomorrow.
    This suggests that the choice of whether he comes or not is wholly up to him (or that the speaker is ignoring any factors which might prevent him, and just making a flat statement - he might or he might not.)

    1. He might (may) be able to come tomorrow.
    This suggests that there may be circumstances/other commitments which could prevent him coming (even if he dearly wanted to.)

    4. Applicants for the job must speak two foreign languages.
    Whilst 3 and 4 are not greatly different, 4 is preferable to 3: it is not that they MUST speak two languages (when? everyday, even if it is "talking to themselves" if there isn't another Norwegian or German speaker to talk to?)

    3. Applicants for the job must be able to speak two foreign languages.
    Here, it is more that the applicant has the capability of conversing in another language, so that if I walk into your office and don't speak Russian, they will page you and ask you to deal with my enquiries because 'you are able to speak two languages' - Russian and English.
    Last edited by David L.; 19-Feb-2009 at 15:59.

  1. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Modals

    Quote Originally Posted by greegorush View Post
    Hello,
    Is there any difference in meaning among these sentences, or does "be able to" just add additional words to sentences without changing their meanings?

    1. He might (may) be able to come tomorrow.
    2. He might (may) come tomorrow.
    3. Applicants for the job must be able to speak two foreign languages.
    4. Applicants for the job must speak two foreign languages.

    Thanks in advance.
    1 and 2 have different meanings. The first addresses whether he'll be available but says nothing about whether he'll come. The second is not about availability: he might not come, even if he can.

    3 and 4 have the same meaning. Technically, there's a difference. The first is about the applicant having the ability. The second says that the applicant will be required to speak two languages. However, we can assume that since being able to speak two languages is a job requirement, the result will be the same thing: the person will speak two foreign languages on the job.

    Re may and might:

    Though in other cases they have different meanings, in this case, both may and might mean the same thing and are correct.

    [I edit copy and have tutored college writing.]

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    #4

    Re: Modals

    What does 'he will page you' mean?

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    #5

    Re: Modals

    Thanks a lot!

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