+0

Is the difference between could and might in a) much more significant than in b)?


a) You need to discuss with them how they could vs might help you.

b) You could vs might try calling the help desk.


Can we put might=would perhaps in a)?

+1
Rizan MalikIs the difference between could and might in a) much more significant than in b)?

I wouldn't put it quite like that. There isn't a really clear-cut difference in meaning in either case. In (a), "could" may give a stronger impression that they will be able to help, but people's perceptions of this may vary. In (b), "might" seems a slightly higher-register choice to me, that's all.

Rizan MalikCan we put might=would perhaps in a)?

It creates a similar meaning. Again, the nuances of any difference that people may perceive are probably not clear-cut.

+1
Rizan MalikIs the difference between could and might in a) much more significant than in b)?

Yes, I'd say so.

In a) 'might' suggests 'might be able to', a combination of 'maybe' and 'can'. On the other hand, 'could' suggests 'would be able to', a tentative (cautious, hesitant) version of 'will be able to', which is much stronger (confident).

You can even use 'can' there (approximately 'will be able to' in this context).

Rizan MalikCan we put might=would perhaps in a)?

You need to ... how they would perhaps help you? Like that?

No. I doubt you'd hear that. To me ear it lacks the 'be able to' component which both 'could' and 'might' have in the given context.

... how they would perhaps be able to help you sounds closer to the actual meaning you're trying to paraphrase.

CJ

(x-post)

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
1 2 3
Comments  
CalifJimIn a) 'might' suggests 'might be able to', a combination of 'maybe' and 'can'. On the other hand, 'could' suggests 'would be able to', a tentative (cautious, hesitant) version of 'will be able to', which is much stronger (confident).

Thank you.

In You could vs might try calling the help desk, does the could mean would be able to and might, might be able to,too?

Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Rizan MalikIn You could vs might try calling the help desk, does the could mean would be able to and might, might be able to, too?

The literal meaning of those paraphrases applies. That is, "you" are physically and mentally able to call the help desk. So those phrasings are accurate renderings of the literal meaning.

But the intent of saying that the listener is "able to" try is not the real meaning. The real intent is to make the suggestion that "you" try, based on the idea that, by social convention, you can tell someone to do something by telling them that they are able to do it.

Given that the real meaning differs so much from the literal meaning, I find a paraphrase with "would be able to" or "might be able to" to be a somewhat clumsy emphasis on the literal meaning. A paraphrase of the real meaning would be something like "I suggest that you call ...".

CJ

CalifJimBut the intent of saying that the listener is "able to" try is not the real meaning. The real intent is to make the suggestion that "you" try, based on the idea that, by social convention, you can tell someone to do something by telling them that they are able to do it.

So You could vs might try calling the help desk is a pure suggestion and doesn't have much to do with would be able to and might be able to. Can we put can and may in that sentence?

Rizan MalikSo You could vs might try calling the help desk is a pure suggestion and doesn't have much to do with would be able to and might be able to.

Let's be a little more subtle about this.

You can't say it's a "pure" suggestion. It's a "round-about" suggestion, but it's still a suggestion.

It has a lot to do with being able to do something, as I explained.

It's just that the literal meaning (which is about ability but not about suggestions) is not the real meaning (which is about making a suggestion but not about ability).

Rizan MalikCan we put can and may in that sentence?

'can', but not 'may'. In that context 'may' will be heard as granting permission, and that is certainly not the intention of the speaker.


I'll grant you it's frustrating making sense of the modal verbs. There is much less symmetry among these verbs than a learner might wish for. The modals are all lopsided in the way they group together to convey various meanings.

CJ

Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
CalifJimI'll grant you it's frustrating making sense of the modal verbs. There is much less symmetry among these verbs than a learner might wish for. The modals are all lopsided in the way they group together to convey various meanings.

Very true.


Thank you for your patience and quick replies. Not everyone has this much of patience.

You're welcome.

I don't have this much patience either. I just fake it. Emotion: surprise

Emotion: big smile

CJ

Show more