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what is difference between these two sentences
He might come. or he may come .
thanks
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Comments  (Page 4) 
I have replied to that post, Jim, but wasn't logged in. So, it will appear as anonymous. Look out for it.
Jim

Here are result from US TV Talk (2 million words):

Concordances for may = 72

Concordances for might = 123

Now it could be that many of those results show speakers on TV talkshows as wanting to sound more formal, indirect, polite, etc, but some of them must be to do with ceratinty vs uncertainty.
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<Not the same discussion. There are less transcriptions of spoken English than there are of written in the BNC.

The intention was not that you compare written with spoken, but written uses of "may...>

Post :271695 is my reply to Jim. I forget to log in before I posted.
MilkyMore normal:

Teen: So, you may let me go to the party then? Great!

Mum: I said might, not may

Both "you may let me go to the party" and "I said might, not may" are of course perfectly possible phrases. Yet neither googles.

The former isn't surprising; we rarely ask for permission to go to parties while online.

But I am a little surprised about "I said might, not may".

As I said before: if the distinction is there, why does no one ever ask for clarification?

MrP
Marius Hancu
MrPedanticBut:

1. Well, yes, we may be able to go to the party...but I've been having a lot of trouble with the car this week. So don't hold your breath...

2. Did I tell you, by the way? We might be going to France for Christmas this year! Zenana's letting us use her house in Normandy. So as long as I can get the time off work, we should be ok.

Now I'd be very wary of saying that "may" in #1 expressed "likelihood", while "might" in #2 expressed a "stronger sense of doubt".
OK.
Now, would you use may for might and the other way round in the two sentences? Your reasons? Thanks.
Hello Marius

Yes, I think I might.

It seems to me that there would be no difference in meaning, in the vice versa versions. The modal in #1 proffers a little false hope; while in #2, it signifies "pleased anticipation".

All the best,

MrP
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MilkyParings of may and might/might and may. Why is the "or" there?

Belt and braces.

MrP
AnonymousBut yes, I believe that spoken language allows more uncertainty than do the Academic or News registers. With might vs may, there are added factors. Might also signals higher formality for many. It is also considered as somewhat dated by some, and, for many also, it sounds stuffy. So, that could be a major reason why one hears less of it in the spoken language.

Interesting, Anon.

I would have supposed that "may" signalled "higher formality" for many people.

"Might", on the other hand, seems quite common in the spoken language, in my experience (London area). Unless we're looking at different figures, the BNC seems to confirm that.

MrP
MrPedanticAs I said before: if the distinction is there, why does no one ever ask for clarification?

MrP

If the distinction is not there for you, you'll never need ask.
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<1. Well, yes, we may be able to go to the party...but I've been having a lot of trouble with the car this week. So don't hold your breath...

2. Did I tell you, by the way? We might be going to France for Christmas this year! Zenana's letting us use her house in Normandy. So as long as I can get the time off work, we should be ok.>

Note the distance in time between each moment of speaking and the event described. Can we generally feel more sure about events that are close to us than ones that are further away in time? If so, do we have language at our diposal that will allow us to express those levels of certainty/uncertainty?

Note also the more general ease of getting a car repaired than that of getting time off work. In each of your sentences, the thing that could prevent the speaker carrying out the enjoyable action is of a different intensity - in normal situations that is.
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