Unit 16: What's the weather like?
Using 'may', 'might' and 'could'
Select a unit
- 1 Nice to meet you!
- 2 What to wear
- 3 Like this, like that
- 4 The daily grind
- 5 Christmas every day
- 6 Great achievers
- 7 The Titanic
- 8 Travel
- 9 The big wedding
- 10 Sunny's job hunt
- 11 The bucket list
- 12 Moving and migration
- 13 Welcome to BBC Broadcasting House
- 14 New Year, New Project
- 15 From Handel to Hendrix
- 16 What's the weather like?
- 17 The Digital Revolution
- 18 A detective story
- 19 A place to live
- 20 The Cult of Celebrity
- 21 Welcome to your new job
- 22 Beyond the planets
- 23 Great expectations!
- 24 Eco-tourism
- 25 Moving house
- 26 It must be love
- 27 Job hunting success... and failure
- 28 Speeding into the future
- 29 Lost arts
- 30 Tales of survival
‘Might’, ‘may’ and ‘could’ for possibility
Meaning and use
We use might + verb, may + verb or could + verb to talk about the possibility of something in the present or the future, when we are making a guess about a present situation, or we aren’t sure if something will happen in the future.
I might go to the exhibition at the Tate this afternoon. (future)
He’s travelling in Eastern Europe. He may be in Ukraine by now. (present)
We could have some problems later this year. (future)
There is almost no difference in meaning between might, may and could.
We use might not/mightn’t and may not to talk about negative possibility. We don’t usually use a contraction for may not. We cannot use could not/couldn’t for possibility in the same way as might not and may not (see Take note below).
We might not move into the new offices until the New Year.
Our client may not agree with our suggestions.
We use might/may/could + infinitive without ‘to’ or might not/mightn’t/may not + infinitive without ‘to’. They are the same for all persons (I, you, he, she, etc.).
They are warning that storms could hit most of the country later today.
There might be some delays on the railways as a result.
Many people may not be able to get to work at all.
It mightn’t affect us as badly as they say.
It is possible to ask questions with Might/May/Could + subject + infinitive without ‘to’, but it is more common to form a question with Do you think + subject + might/may/could + infinitive without ‘to’.
Do you think he might/may/could be in Ukraine by now?
(Might/May/Could he be in Ukraine by now?)
Take note: couldn’t
We don’t use couldn’t in the same way as might not/mightn’t/may not. ‘Couldn’t’ means that something is impossible.
WRONG: I think there couldn’t be any trains today, so I’m going by bus.
CORRECT: I think there mightn’t be any trains today, so I’m going by bus.
Take note: ‘might’, ‘may’ and ‘could’ for permission
Might, may and could for permission are different from might, may and could for possibility. For permission with might, may and could, the question form is Might/May/Could I + infinitive without ‘to’. Might for permission is very formal.
Could/May/Might I come with you to the exhibition?
Might, may and could are modal verbs. When we say modal verbs, we usually say them quicklyhout emphasis. We don’t pronounce the ‘t’ or ‘d’ in might and could or the ‘t’ at the end of mightn’t and couldn’t.
They might get here late.
We mightn’t watch the whole film.
It couldn’t be Pete you saw because he’s in Greece.