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Understanding and Using Modal Verbs (#7), by Dennis Oliver

  

Modal Verbs #7:
Individual Modal Verbs

 

The English modal verbs are often challenging for learners
of English. This happens for many reasons, including both
grammar and meaning.

In the previous two Hints, we looked at three uses for might.
In this Hint, we'll take a look at one other one.


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Might #3:
Might in Indirect (Reported) Speech

 

Another way of using the modal auxiliary might is in
indirect (reported) speech.

In indirect speech, the tense of a quoted verb (the verb in
the indirect speech) depends on the tense of the main verb.
When the main verb is past (and it frequently is), the tenses
of the indirect-speech verbs usually change to past forms
(even if their meaning is not past) due to the "influence"
of the main verb In that situation,
may often changes
to
might.


Examples:

Direct Speech   Indirect Speech
Joe said, "I may be late."   Joe said that he might be late.
     
Mary asked, "May I have
your attention?"
  Mary asked if she might
have our attention.
     
The server asked, "What
may I bring you?"
  The server asked what
he / she
might bring us.


Important: When the direct-speech sentence has might in
present or future time and the indirect-speech sentence has
a past-tense verb,
might does not change to a different form.


Examples:

Direct Speech   Indirect Speech
Joe said, "I might be late."   Joe said that he might be late.
     
Mary asked, "Might I
have your attention?"
  Mary asked if she might
have our attention.
     
The server asked, "What
might I bring you?"
  The server asked what
he / she
might bring us.


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Next: more on modal verbs
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