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minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sun Jan 25 07:41:35 EST 2004


Melissa wrote:

>Does someone want to explain the may/might thing so I can explain why the
>misuse is wrong to all the benighted souls I deal with?  That, like the use
>of "whom," is one of those things for which I do not know the rules.  I
>didn't pay any attention in grammar class, believing that if I could write
>things correctly, it matterethed not if I knew the rules, but I think it's
>an advantage...if only to pull intellectual rank.

It's another one I *know* but can't express.  Or rather, I know instantly
when it's wrong.  For example, when speaking of a cricketer who had been
killed by a cricket-ball hitting his head very hard, the newsreader said
"He was not wearing a protective helmet, which may have saved his life,"
and I screamed gently because it ought to have been "which might have saved
his life" [only it hadn't done so and he was dead] but blowed if I could
explain *why* it had to be "might" there in order to state the facts
properly.  Very frustrating.

I'm with Melissa, therefore: please, someone, I don't exactly want to pull
intellectual rank, but I'd like to know the technicalities for my own
satisfaction.  My mother used to give me what she called "rules of thumb",
and they work, but they don't say *why*, only *what*.

Minnow


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