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Consider this sentence, please:

1) The world may never eradicate coronavirus, but it could get it under control.

2) The world may never eradicate coronavirus, but it might get it under control.

What is the difference between 1) and 2)?

In general, What's the difference between "might" and "could" when it comes to talking about a possibility?

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Comments  (Page 3) 
CalifJim
Rizan Malik

If I used "could" in place of "might" in a) and b) above, would you consider them as mixed 1st/2nd conditional?

a) If you lean over the rail, you could fall. ("could" here sounds like it falls into the 'may'/'might' possibility group.)

a) I agree that 'could' falls into the "M-possibility" group. That makes it a non-past-time modal (what I've called a borrowing from preterit to present) in this sentence. Under that interpretation a) is a pure first conditional, just as it is with 'might'.

But some people might consider sentence a) to be a mixed conditional. Am I right?

Rizan Malik

So from the point of view that 'might' always applies to present time in modern English, the surface appearance of the word 'might' leads me to say the whole sentence is a mixed conditional.

Because of the reason that is underlined above, would you use "may" in sentence d) above?

d) Your child may do better if she got/had a different teacher.

No. It sounds wrong to my ear. (I'd call it a mixed conditional.)

CJ

You say: I'd call it a mixed conditional.

Which one of these do you mean?

Your child may do better if she got/had a different teacher.

Or

Your child might do better if she got/had a different teacher.


By a "mixed conditional" here, you mean the result clause is that of a "first conditional" and the conditional clause is that of a "second conditional". Am I right?

Rizan MalikBut some people might consider sentence a) to be a mixed conditional. Am I right?

Yes, I suppose that interpretation is also possible. Just not for me.

Rizan MalikYou say: I'd call it a mixed conditional.
Which one of these do you mean? ...

This one:
Your child may do better if she got/had a different teacher
.

Rizan MalikBy a "mixed conditional" here, you mean the result clause is that of a "first conditional" and the conditional clause is that of a "second conditional".

Yes.

CJ

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One more question:

1) I might go to the beach if the sun was/were shining.

2) I might go with you to the market if I wasn't/weren't ill.

3) I might do better if I had a different teacher.

4) I might buy a 20-room mansion if I won the lottery.

Do sentences 1-4 need commas before the "if"s?

5) I could go to the beach if the sun was/were shining.

6) I could go with you to the market if I wasn't/weren't ill.

7) I could do better if I had a different teacher.

8) I could buy a 20-room mansion if I won the lottery.

Do sentences 5-8 need commas before the "if"s?

Rizan Malik

1) I might go to the beach if the sun was/were ??? is shining.

2) I might go with you to the market if I wasn't/weren't??? am not ill.

3) I might do better if I had a different teacher.

4) I might buy a 20-room mansion if I won the lottery.

Do sentences 1-4 need commas before the "if"s? No comma before an if-clause, please!

1) and 2) strike me as "real" (not "hypothetical") future possibilities, so the present tense seems more appropriate in the if-clause.

3) and 4) could go either way (if I have/had; if I win/won), but it's easier for me to imagine these as hypothetical so I expect just what you've written.

Rizan Malik

5) I could go to the beach if the sun was/were shining.

6) I could go with you to the market if I wasn't/weren't ill.

7) I could do better if I had a different teacher.

8) I could buy a 20-room mansion if I won the lottery.

Do sentences 5-8 need commas before the "if"s? No comma before an if-clause, please!

All of these with 'could' sound fine to me.

CJ

CalifJim
Rizan Malik

If I used "could" in place of "might" in a) and b) above, would you consider them as mixed 1st/2nd conditional?

a) If you lean over the rail, you could fall. ("could" here sounds like it falls into the 'may'/'might' possibility group.)

b) I could go to the beach if the sun is shining.

a) I agree that 'could' falls into the "M-possibility" group. That makes it a non-past-time modal (what I've called a borrowing from preterit to present) in this sentence. Under that interpretation a) is a pure first conditional, just as it is with 'might'.

b) I hear 'could' as 'would be able to', and I don't hear either the 'could' or its paraphrase with 'would' as a borrowing, so I'd call this one a mixed conditional.

CJ

c) If the astronaut momentarily lost radio contact with earth, the whole mission could be ruined.

Would you call sentence c) a mixed conditional ("could" = "M-possibility") or would you call it a pure second conditional?

Here "ruined" is an adjective or a verb?

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Rizan MalikWould you call sentence c) a mixed conditional ("could" = "M-possibility") or would you call it a pure second conditional?

I hear it as a pure second conditional.

Rizan MalikHere "ruined" is an adjective or a verb?

I hear it as a verb ("that would ruin the whole mission"), but it's a bit ambiguous.

CJ

CalifJim
Rizan Malik

If I used "could" in place of "might" in a) and b) above, would you consider them as mixed 1st/2nd conditional?

a) If you lean over the rail, you could fall. ("could" here sounds like it falls into the 'may'/'might' possibility group.)

b) I could go to the beach if the sun is shining.

a) I agree that 'could' falls into the "M-possibility" group. That makes it a non-past-time modal (what I've called a borrowing from preterit to present) in this sentence. Under that interpretation a) is a pure first conditional, just as it is with 'might'.

b) I hear 'could' as 'would be able to', and I don't hear either the 'could' or its paraphrase with 'would' as a borrowing, so I'd call this one a mixed conditional.

CJ

Isn't this a pure first conditional and not a mixed 1st/2nd conditional?

If you don't hurry, you could miss the train

Rizan Malik

Isn't this a pure first conditional and not a mixed 1st/2nd conditional?

If you don't hurry, you could miss the train

That sounds like a reasonable interpretation, could being the equivalent of may or might here.

Nevertheless, this is a matter of opinion, and we are each entitled to our own opinions on these matters. There is no standard terminology that applies definitely to conditionals that are not purely the WOULD and WOULD HAVE types. Should we classify them by the forms or by the meanings? And does that even matter?

Besides, I wonder what benefit accrues from being able to place labels on conditional sentences, if any. Does it contribute to fluency in speaking or writing? I doubt it.

CJ

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CalifJim
Rizan Malik

Isn't this a pure first conditional and not a mixed 1st/2nd conditional?

If you don't hurry, you could miss the train

That sounds like a reasonable interpretation, could being the equivalent of may or might here.

Nevertheless, this is a matter of opinion, and we are each entitled to our own opinions on these matters. There is no standard terminology that applies definitely to conditionals that are not purely the WOULD and WOULD HAVE types. Should we classify them by the forms or by the meanings?

CJ

So the difference of opinion is because some might consider the sentence: "If you don't hurry, you could miss the train" a first conditional, by looking at the paraphrase for "could" here, namely: "maybe you will" and others might consider it a mixed conditional just because it uses "could", which is normally considered "unreal/hypothetical". Is this what you mean?

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