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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 7) 
J LewisHere's one clear distinction:
"I may/might come" - indifferent
He said he might come - when reporting in the past, may is not possible.
He said he may come

He said he might come.

Both can indicate what was said in the past about a future event. (future event there = after the moment of speaking.)

John may/might come.

Why do you think that?

He said so.

<<<If the reporting verb (the main verb of the sentences, e.g., said, is in the past, the verb in the noun clause will usually be in a past form.
Milky<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.
Well, that's easily fixed:

1. Well, yes, we may be able to come over for Christmas...but it all depends on whether I can get the time off work.

2. Did I tell you, by the way? We might be going to France for Christmas! Zenana's letting us use her house in Normandy. So as long as I can get the car repaired in time, we should be ok.
MrP
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MrPedantic
Well, that's easily fixed:

1. Well, yes, we may be able to come over for Christmas...but it all depends on whether I can get the time off work.

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

MrP

And? I've stated the reasond I think each modal is being used in the two sentences above yours, so why don't you tell us why they are being used in each of your examples?
MilkyAnd?

You seem to have forgotten the context of the original sentences:
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".

MrP

Now you made this comment in reply to my post:
MilkyNote 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.

Which is an interesting point; but suppose we switch the situations:
MrPedantic
Well, that's easily fixed:

1. Well, yes, we may be able to come over for Christmas...but it all depends on whether I can get the time off work.

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

MrP

I would still be very wary of saying that "may" in #1 expressed "likelihood", while "might" in #2 expressed a "stronger sense of doubt". So the "relative ease" aspect is irrelevant.

Meanwhile, I've already provided an answer to this question:
MilkyAnd? I've stated the reasond I think each modal is being used in the two sentences above yours, so why don't you tell us why they are being used in each of your examples?

Namely:
MariusNow, would you use may for might and the other way round in the two sentences? Your reasons? Thanks.
MrPHello 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

It's all there in black and white. All you have to do is read the thread.

MrP

<Which is an interesting point; but suppose we switch the situations:>

LOL! You're impossible, MR P. There are many reasons why speakers would use one or the other in a certain context. I have observed that, in BE, many speakers using the "present" forms of modals when wanting to express a weaker sense of modality (e.g. epistemic "will" is weaker in modality than "may", but is also weaker in modality than "would" in many cases). I am guessing that it could be true in the above "broke car/time off work" contexts. Did you see that word? I said "guessing".

There may be a multitude of reasons, but we can't say categorically which one is the true one unless we consult the speaker - and maybe not even then. So, we make guesses based on previous contact with with similar contexts as the above. When you go and post an alternative, without explaining your reasoning for doing so, I feel a need to ask why. So, therefore, the "Why" above.

So, next time, you should add comments such as the one below earlier.

<I would still be very wary of saying that "may" in #1 expressed "likelihood", while "might" in #2 expressed a "stronger sense of doubt". So the "relative ease" aspect is irrelevant.>

It would help save a lot of time.

To me, it's there is a strong possibility that the speakers in those contexts are aware, consciously or subconsciuosly, of a sense of near or close possibility or likelihood/time/social relations and remote or distant possibiliy likelihood/time/social relations that very often accompanies the use of modals. If that is so, then factors such as distance in time between the spoken moment and the actual event, and the obligation, real or false, regarding a broken car or getting time off work, may have an effect upon thire "choice" of modal.

Hey, Mr P, if you feel there is no difference between the use of "may" and "might" in the car/time off work" contexts, is it possible that you haven't experienced a situation where a difference mattered? Or are you categorically stating that there is never a difference, no matter the speakers or context?

You be as wary as you like, but the modals still have to be taught. You seem to be taking us even further away from any possibility of finding a way to teach them I, on the other hand am citing the Principle of General Use ( see M Lewis) for modals and every other "verb" form. I feel that that is the best way forward for me and my students.
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<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".>

You keep using the word "meaning". Are you talking about literal meaning or communicative meaning?
Pragmatics: concerned with beliefs and inferences about the nature of assumptions made by participants, and the purposes for which utterances are used in context of communicative language use.
Milky
Hey, Mr P, if you feel there is no difference between the use of "may" and "might" in the car/time off work" contexts, is it possible that you haven't experienced a situation where a difference mattered? Or are you categorically stating that there is never a difference, no matter the speakers or context?

I go back to a point I made many posts ago: if epistemic "may" and "might" expressed a measurable difference in likelihood, in the contexts in which either might be used, we would often have to confirm the degree of likelihood with the speaker:


Ex. 1
"And MissQ may be coming to the party, as well."
"Wonderful! And it's definitely 'may be coming', not 'might be coming'?"
"Absolutely."
How often do you hear that kind of exchange?

There's also the question of speaker preference. Some speakers are more inclined to use "might" than "may", or vice versa.

Then too, as I've also pointed out, "I may be able to..." suggests more unlikelihood than "I might be able to...!".

Another factor is contextual accord. Thus if you say "Are you going to go to France again this Christmas?", my "Well, we may do, yes" reflects your present tense; whereas if you say "Were you going to go to France again this Christmas?", my "Well, we might do, yes" reflects your imperfect. In this case, my choice relates not to differing degrees of likelihood, but to the "immediate"/"remote" contrast in the questions, which itself may simply reflect politeness on the speaker's part or (again) a personal preference.

At bottom, the distinction based on differing degrees of likelihood is nothing more than "might = 30%, may = 50%". Which (as we agreed on another thread) is not the most sensible way to proceed.

MrP
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<


Ex. 1
"And MissQ may be coming to the party, as well."
"Wonderful! And it's definitely 'may be coming', not 'might be coming'?"
"Absolutely."
How often do you hear that kind of exchange? >

Frequency is not a problem. Such exchanges do occur, don't they?

< Some speakers are more inclined to use "might" than "may", or vice versa. >

That's true. In my ESL classes, I initiate a chat about such things. I ask students to say if they feel they are a "must person" or a "should person", i.e. which modal they find themselves using most in situations of giving advice. Interesting chats ensue.

<Then too, as I've also pointed out, "I may be able to..." suggests more unlikelihood than "I might be able to...!".>

Where? Examples please.

< In this case, my choice relates not to differing degrees of likelihood, but to the "immediate"/"remote" contrast in the questions, which itself may simply reflect politeness on the speaker's part or (again) a personal preference.>

Yes, there we move into the area of remote social relationship. And, as I've said, idiolectic uses are of no real value to ESL learning. Nice for comprehension, maybe, but too personal to be of any real educational value.

<At bottom, the distinction based on differing degrees of likelihood is nothing more than "might = 30%, may = 50%". Which (as we agreed on another thread) is not the most sensible way to proceed.>

No, the bottom is helping students find a way to undertsand and use language which can be identified as systematic, widespread, and highly repeatable.
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