Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Thu Jan 20 19:51:32 UTC 2000

Andrea's anecdote looks like another symptom of the apparent breakdown of
the distinction between indicative "may" and subjunctive "might" (the
latest [?] manifestation of the breakdown of the modal verb system in
English, and probably also a manifestation of the decay of the subjunctive).

There was a discussion on this list awhile back in which some of us vented
our helpless rage at this phenomenon, in which the subjunctive "might"
seems to have simply disappeared for many speakers.  Thus you hear
sentences like the following (hypothetical examples) all the time on radio
and TV newscasts: "If she hadn't been pulled from the water in the nick of
time, she may have drowned."  Or: "If the paramedics hadn't given him CPR,
he may have been dead by now."  As I recall, one list member from England
indicated that the use of "might" in such contexts would be completely
foreign to him.


--On Thu, Jan 20, 2000 11:12 AM -0800 "A. Vine" <avine at ENG.SUN.COM> wrote:

> Yet another difference between may and might:
> I write articles for a trade journal.  Before I send in an article, I
> have a friend who is a tech writer review it.  She likes to cross out all
> my "mays" and replace them with "mights", insisting that "may" means
> permission.  I do not agree with her, but there are folks who do.

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at

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