must have / might have

jutfrank

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Correct, there's no clear answer. might have is also possible. The question is not a good one.
 

Phaedrus

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Tdol

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The person writing the quiz thinks that if they're not answering the phone, then you can be fairly sure that they have closed. Quizzes are not perfect tools, but you can see what they're looking for.
 

jutfrank

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The person writing the quiz thinks that if they're not answering the phone, then you can be fairly sure that they have closed. Quizzes are not perfect tools, but you can see what they're looking for.

Right. To us native speakers, it's fairly obvious the expected answer is must have. Unfortunately, for many learners, this is not obvious at all. The question becomes less about grammatical form than about how native speakers think.
 

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They may have been so busy that nobody could answer the phone.
 

Tdol

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Right. To us native speakers, it's fairly obvious the expected answer is must have. Unfortunately, for many learners, this is not obvious at all. The question becomes less about grammatical form than about how native speakers think.

It is indeed hard to anticipate every possibility, and I have done this when writing online quizzes. This is why serious exams get very thoroughly tested.
 

Phaedrus

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In theory, the incorrectness of "might have" would exclude that option, but the quiz writer probably didn't know it was incorrect.
 

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How would "might have" be incorrect?
 

Phaedrus

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Please refer to the links I gave in my first post, which lead to good explanations given at this forum. We don't know whether the clinic closed early. The possibility that it did is an undecided, factual possibility. We express that using "may": It may have closed early. "Might have" would technically indicate that we know that it did not close early. It would be appropriately used in a counterfactual context like this one: The clinic didn't hear about the bomb threat across the street. It might have closed early. That is, the clinic might have closed early if it had heard about the bomb threat across the street.
 

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I've lamented the merging of may and might since I first noticed it. Oddly though, I only see it in one direction, when may is used where I'd say "might", losing the contrafactual nuance that's so clear to me. I guess I merged the modals in the other direction long ago.
 

GoesStation

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I was shocked when I first started hearing that may/might merger, which seemed to progress very quickly. It seems like such a natural and useful distinction to me that I couldn't grasp how anyone could mix them up. They do, though, like it or not.
 

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Many younger speakers in Britain see may have and might have as interchangeable. I think it's a loss because the distinction seems useful to me, but they get by without it.
 

GoesStation

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I'm surprised he finds may declining in frequency. I would have guessed it was might that was fading out.
 

Phaedrus

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I once started collecting a list of such examples from the media, but I ended up with so many that I began to doubt whether I could reject this use of 'may' any longer.
Sadly, the maymight distinction seems to be going the way of the shallwill distinction, in the existence of which I have come to believe. :)
 

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That most people fail to observe a distinction doesn't make it artificial, and never did.
 

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I'm one of the people who never bothered with the difference. I've lived a happy life so far and make my living writing despite this apparent gap.
 

Phaedrus

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The shall/will distinction for a future event was never natural for the majority of natve speakers of English.
I actually am one of those native speakersof American Englishfor whom it has never been natural in speech. I could probably count on two hands the number of times I have dared in live conversation to use shall to refer (in a declarative, first-person clause) to a future event. That takes real courage! Butand I'm sure you will (not shall) disagree with me hereI think it is a type of courage worth developing, insofar as the distinction can really be quite elegant. I say "can be" because I encounter many cases where neither seems better than the other, even in theory. Consider an example such as this one: "I think I shall take a walk." To the extent that any residue of volitional meaning is retained in will as an auxiliaryand I should (not would) like to believe that there is some residue thereit doesn't really make sense to say, "I think I will take a walk," which, at least in theory, represents the speaker as being unsure of his own desire! For another example, consider the distinction between "I shall never forget this day" and "I won't ever forget this day." The first sentence is stronger than the second. The version with will is, at least in theory, rather similar to saying, "I hope never to forget this day." The version with shall prophecies that the forgetting won't happen.
 
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Tdol

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That most people fail to observe a distinction doesn't make it artificial, and never did.

But it does not make it a healthy and vibrant distinction. When I started teaching thirty years ago, If I was was simply wrong, but now only the most pedantic exams would even test this was/were difference. Occasionally, my mother says she surprised at her sons' language usage- some rules she tried to teach us stuck, but others didn't. She insists in her mid-eighties that because of/due to and one another/each other are different and carry shades of meaning. I can't honestly say that I can see the differences outside tests, yet I would not describe myself as a a grammar progressive, more a realist.
 

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These days, I can't even remember what, if anything, I was taught about the distinction. At school, I imagine it was very little (if anything at all) because aside from a six-month elective course at the start of secondary school, we were not taught grammar.

I know my grandfather (born 1921) would have said "Might I have another slice of cake?" whereas a lot of people (if being polite) would say "May I have another slice of cake?" Most of us, these days, would say "Can I have another slice of cake?"

I hear "I might go to the cinema tonight" and "I may go to the cinema tonight" about equally.

I taught conversational English in Spain and I simply told my students that if they wanted to sound natural, it would suffice to use "will" (or, preferably, "am/are going to") in statements and "shall" in questions.
 
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