Sunday, February 01, 2004

Is it 'may' or is it 'might'?

Synidacted columnist and wordsmith James Kilpatrick offers this hint:
The verbal auxiliaries "may" and "might" are tricksters. We're not talking today of "may" in the sense of permission: "You may have a nightcap, but that's all!" No, we're talking probability. The general rule is that "may" conveys a higher degree of probability than "might." Thus, "He may get falling-down drunk" carries a higher likelihood of tipsiness than "He might get falling-down drunk."
This is well-taken advice, stuff I'd never heard (although the mays in some of the "wrong" examples do sound wrong).

He also covers awoke vs. awakened, although he comes to no conclusions, and even the examples are a mess. But it's worth a skim.


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