"might have done"

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Tue Nov 21 16:21:06 UTC 2000

In a message dated 10/27/2000 12:24:25 PM, gbarrett at MONICKELS.COM writes:

<< An interesting column from the Guardian regarding reader complaints about

"Readers who believe that the Guardian should be written in decent English
pursue their cause relentlessly... Readers who have this condition in its
advanced stages not only notice the particular thing that annoys them
whenever it occurs. They notice it, with a little leap of delight, when it
does not occur but might have done."


I should also say that, as usual, the "might have done" cries out to me as
odd. I would either end the sentence at "have" or add suffix a "so." >>

I published an article or two on this British neologism a number of years
ago. It seems to have come into popularity in "cultivated" circles in
southern England between the two world wars. Before that, it was decidely
declasse--rural and working-class in the 19th century. An interesting bit of
data is that E. Waugh in his novel BRIDESHEAD REVISITED did not use the
construction; however, when the book was made into a television series, the
screenwriters changed at least one of the might have's to a might have done!

Some Americans seem to have borrowed the neologism, but not many.


"Syntactic Change in British English 'Propredicates,' " Journal of English
Linguistics 16 (1983), 1-7.

"American Instances of Propredicate do," Journal of English Linguistics 20.2
(1987), 212-16. [with Kazuo Kato, first author]

More information about the Ads-l mailing list