May\might

He might have died in the accident.


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Tdol

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RonBee

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He could have died = It was a possibility, but it didn't happen
He might have died = We don't know what happened, but it is a possibility that he died

(Perhaps it is an AE/BE difference, but I don't know.)
 

Tdol

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I think it is, as I'd use them the other way around. I find it amazing just how many differences there are between the two. ;-)
 
C

CitySpeak

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tdol said:


It can mean both. Only the context would tell which meaning it is.


You might recall that I had some "might" ideas some time ago.



:shock: 8)
 

Tdol

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In BE, we tend to use it with a single meaning, though some would use it for both. ;-)
 
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CitySpeak

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tdol said:
In BE, we tend to use it with a single meaning, though some would use it for both. ;-)


I think, "He could have died in that accident." is the more common way of expressing such an idea. Though, I can still imagine "might" being used as well.


he could have = but he didn't
 
D

darren

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tdol said:
I think it is, as I'd use them the other way around. I find it amazing just how many differences there are between the two. ;-)

Tdol teacher, I didn't get what you meant 'I'd use them the other way around'. Did you mean that the usage is opposite of AE in BE? Need further details.
 

Tdol

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In BE, the following would be used:

1- He might have died. (he survived an incident where there was a possiblility of dying)
2- He may have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)

However, the distinction is being eroded and many people now are using 'may' for the fisrt meaning.
;-)
 
D

darren

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tdol said:
In BE, the following would be used:

1- He might have died. (he survived an incident where there was a possiblility of dying)
2- He may have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)

However, the distinction is being eroded and many people now are using 'may' for the fisrt meaning.
;-)

Tdol teacher:
He might have died (BE)=He could have died(AE)
He may have died(BE)=He might have died(AE)
I hope i got it right.Feel free to correct me if any.
 

RonBee

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darren said:
tdol said:
In BE, the following would be used:

1- He might have died. (he survived an incident where there was a possiblility of dying)
2- He may have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)

However, the distinction is being eroded and many people now are using 'may' for the fisrt meaning.
;-)

Tdol teacher:
He might have died (BE)=He could have died(AE)
He may have died(BE)=He might have died(AE)
I hope i got it right.Feel free to correct me if any.

I think you have it right. I would say "He could have died to indicate that he survived a harrowing experience. I would say "He might have died" to indicate that I don't know the outcome.

:)
 

gonghai

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hey this is a good Question

He might have died in the accident <-- after giving careful thoughts
this could implie he could be dead or alive

but also i think it depends on the situation

like for example, other info was given such as luckly his friend, who is a doctor was beside him or he might have died in the accident.
then in this situation he is still alive.

oh yeah by the way tdol you sure post really good polls
that can make me think hee hee :D
 

gonghai

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hey this is a good Question

He might have died in the accident <-- after giving careful thoughts
this could implie he could be dead or alive

but also i think it depends on the situation

like for example, other info was given such as luckly his friend, who is a doctor was beside him or he might have died in the accident.
then in this situation he is still alive.

oh yeah by the way tdol you sure post really good polls
that can make me think hee hee :D
 

RonBee

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gonghai said:
like for example, other info was given such as luckly his friend, who is a doctor was beside him or he might have died in the accident.

  • Luckliy, his friend, who is a doctor, was with him, or he might have died in the accident.

That is a good use of the phrase "might have", but I think I would say the person might have died because of (or: as a result of) the accident.

:)
 

RonBee

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gonghai said:
like for example, other info was given such as luckly his friend, who is a doctor was beside him or he might have died in the accident.

  • Luckliy, his friend, who is a doctor, was with him, or he might have died in the accident.

That is a good use of the phrase "might have", but I think I would say the person might have died because of (or: as a result of) the accident.

:)
 

riverkid

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He could have died.

This could/can mean two things [maybe more]

"It was a possibility, but it didn't happen"

OR

"There is a possiblity that he died but I don't know".


He might have died.

This could also mean two things [maybe more]

"We don't know what happened, but there is a SMALL possibility that he died"

OR

it can be used as an admonishment,

"How could you kids be so stupid as to try that stunt?" He might have died.

'may' can also be used in this fashion to admonish; "he may have died" but it is much less likely that either 'might' or 'could'.

In pure speculation, ie. when these modals are used as epistemic predictors [modals of certainty], when we use 'could', all we say is, "There's a possibility but my 'could', in and of itself, doesn't state how strong a possibility.

'Might', on the other hand, confines the range of possibility from a miniscule to a small chance that something happened, will happen, is happening now, or happens all the time.



++++++++++++++++++

In BE, the following would be used:
1- He might have died. (he survived an incident where there was a possiblility of dying)
2- He may have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)
However, the distinction is being eroded and many people now are using 'may' for the fisrt meaning.

That's what some believe but it's simply not how English works, Tdol. In a purely epistemic sense when modals are being used to describe differing levels of speaker certainty, the only difference between 'might' and 'may' is that 'might' shows a speaker who is less certain.

1- He might have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)

Lower level of certainty than 'may'.

2- He may have died. (we don't know whether he has died or not- he's missing up a mountain in a storm, say.)

A higher level of certainty than 'might'.

[An even higher level of certainty becomes, "He probably has died", and an even higher level, "He almost certainly has died" which under the right circumstances, could morph into "He must have died".]

This distinction that some feel is being eroded has actually never existed. The people who think that's the case are confusing epistemic modal meaning with deontic modal meaning.

As the old saying goes, you've gotta compare apples to apples.
 
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mykwyner

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Here is the situation:

Two friends make it to the beach after their boat sinks. They notice that the third friend, Bill, is missing.

Oh no! where is Bill?

He might have drowned.
He could have drowned.
He may have drowned.

I don't see any difference here. There are situations where these modals separate more significant degrees of meaning, but in this case they all mean "possibly dead."
 

riverkid

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Here is the situation:
Two friends make it to the beach after their boat sinks. They notice that the third friend, Bill, is missing.
Oh no! where is Bill?
He might have drowned.
He could have drowned.
He may have drowned.
I don't see any difference here. There are situations where these modals separate more significant degrees of meaning, but in this case they all mean "possibly dead."

You're right, mykwyner that in certain circumstances, many of these modals seem to state the same thing and in this case, "possibility" covers all three. But that doesn't change the core meaning of the modals. They still retain their meanings and 'may' and 'might' express ranges of certainty while 'could/can' do not.

"He probably drowned" & "He almost certainly drowned/He must have drowned" also state "possibly dead"; all three show even higher levels of certainty.

But you have to consider the pragmatics of the situation. What would the two friends use? I'll suggest that 'may' sounds too strong, too certain to entertain at the outset and IMHO, it wouldn't be the first choice. Nor would, "could have drowned" be a first choice.
 

Wuisi

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I'm afraid I can't see the difference. I might have missed something or, perhaps, I could have missed something. What did the papers say? Nothing reported since the accident?
 

SUDHKAMP

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The difference lies in which context is the phrase being used, whether referring to past or future.
He might have died, had it not been for passerby who helped him reaching the hospital.
He might have made a billionaire but for his bad habits.
He might have been the next Prime Minister of India.
 
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