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confusion of may/might Somewhere I read - Might I use your scooter for a week? The patient might recover soon. Why here in these two sentences might is used instead of may. Cannot we say it like may i use your scooter? Patient may recover soon. Thanx
Jun 21, 2013 6:57 AM
Answers · 8
When asking permission, "might" is extremely polite and indirect. Modern speakers would sooner be a little more direct (but still polite) and use may, can or could. "Might" usually indicates the weakest possibility. Might I borrow your scooter? (...but it's absolutely OK if you say no.) May I borrow your scooter? (I'd like to borrow your scooter.) The patient might recover. (There's a tiny possibility of recovery.) The patient may recover. (There's a fairly good possibility of recovery.) The nifty trick to remember is that "might" is a past form of "may". We sometimes use past forms to be indirect, hypothetical or extra-polite.
June 21, 2013
You can use may in both sentences. In fact, I think using 'might' in the first sentence is wrong, or at least archaic (so old-fashioned that people would laugh). May is definitely better when you are talking about permission ("You may leave when you have finished your chores"). In the case of the patient, I would use 'may' here too, especially if I'm talking to the patient or someone who cares about them. 'Might' sounds a bit flippant, like you have no control, you don't know the probability, and it's not that important. 'May' sounds a bit more hopeful.
June 21, 2013
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