Date: Tue, 19 Mar 1996 16:30:22 -0500

From: "H Stephen Straight (Binghamton University,


Subject: Re: may/might distinction (or *non*distinction)

I share Ron, Peter, and Virginia's reaction to may where I would say

might, but I stopped forcing the distinction on others after a

frustrating hour a couple of years ago trying to persuade a roomful of

native speakers that could/might/should/would are the past tense forms of

can/may/shall/will. How could they believe me when their own

grammaticality-judgment devices didn't sound the alarm over sentences

such as:

Yesterday at noon Kelly said, "Pat can go to the movies tonight", but I

don't understand why she said Pat can go to the movies last night.

I had never actually heard anyone _say_ such a thing, mind you, but I

figured it was just a matter of time before tense agreement would go the

way of number agreement. Who needs 'em, anyway? :-(

Best. 'Bye. Steve

H Stephen Straight, Dir, Lgs Across the Curric, Binghamton U (SUNY)

Nat'l For Lg Ctr, Jan-Jun 96 VOX: 202-667-8100 - FAX: 202-667-6907

S-Mail: 1619 Mass Ave NW (at Scott Circle), Washington, DC 20036

sstraigh[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] ["sstraigh", not "sstraight"]