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Modal verb referring to possibility

 
 
bubu
 
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 07:01 pm
Hi!
I had a problem yesterday while explaining the use of modal verbs referring to possibility.

I know that the sentence 'he could had stolen the car' means that it was possible for him to steal the car. But he didn't. That means he was in a position to steal or he had the choice/option to steal but he did not steal. The actual performance of the action 'steal' is not there.

1 - But does the sentence also refer to a speculation about the actual
performance of the action?
2 - Does it also mean that it is possible that he stole the car? If it does then it
has the same meaning as 'he may/might have stolen the car'.
3 - If no. 2 is correct then I would like know how frequent is it in British
English to use 'could have' meaning 'may/might have' in the given context.

Thank you in advance for taking the trouble to answer my question

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Type: Question • Score: 3 • Views: 2,081 • Replies: 8
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hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 07:18 pm
@bubu,
Hi Bubu

The sentence should read 'he could have stolen the car' there's no situation I can think of where it would be correct to use 'had' in that sentence.

Depending on context the sentence could mean either:
Context 1: he had the opportunity to steal the car but didn't take it
Context 2: that the car was stolen and he is possibly the person who stole it.

Could have, might have, may have are fairly congruous if referring to the whether he stole the car (context 2)

As far as having the opportunity to steal the car (context 1) 'could have' is the most common usage, although some (particularly UK) can get a with 'he might have' but it's a little colloquial and tends to mean 'he should have'. 'May have' would never be used in context 2.
bubu
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 10:24 pm
So sorry! 'I could had' was just a typo. I should have checked before sending the question. Thank you for the correction.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 05:35 pm
@hingehead,
Quote:
Could have, might have, may have are fairly congruous if referring to the whether he stole the car (context 2)


I respectfully disagree, Hingehead. Each of those modal verbs covers a certain area of level of certainty.

'might' is the weakest epistemic modal. For pedagogical purposes in helping ESLs to get a grasp of modal epistemic meaning,


S [lexical verb] 100%

S almost certainly/must - 90-99%

S likely/probably/[should] - 51 to 89%

S may - 26 to 50% certainty

S might - 1 to 25% certainty

[S = subject]

'could' [and 'can'] just says "it is/was possible"

Context 1: he had the opportunity to steal the car but didn't take it
Context 2: that the car was stolen and he is possibly the person who stole it.

Quote:
As far as having the opportunity to steal the car (context 1) 'could have' is the most common usage,


I'm not sure that 'could' is the most commonly used modal for this situation. I'd say that it depends on how much information the speaker has or how forceful the speaker wants to appear.

Quote:
although some (particularly UK) can get a with 'he might have' but it's a little colloquial and tends to mean 'he should have'.


It only holds that meaning if that is the intended meaning. Otherwise, it can be pure modal speculation.

[/quote]'May have' would never be used in context 2.[/quote]

I don't understand this at all.

He may have stolen the car.
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 05:43 pm
Just shoot him.
could have is probable cause. He probably works for a mexican drug cartel anyway.
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 05:49 pm
When I read that post by JTT (whom I deeply detest) I felt a taste of sesquipedalian hell.
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 06:14 pm
@contrex,
If he was a cruciverbalist It might legitamise the propensity to be a sesquipedalian
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 06:47 pm
@contrex,
And you suggest that you were an English teacher, C.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 01:42 pm
@JTT,
Quote:
1 - But does the sentence also refer to a speculation about the actual
performance of the action? [/quote[

As noted by Hingehead, yes, it certainly can, Bubu.

[quote]
2 - Does it also mean that it is possible that he stole the car? If it does then it
has the same meaning as 'he may/might have stolen the car'.


No, not the same meaning as I explained in Post: # 4,419,648

Quote:
3 - If no. 2 is correct then I would like know how frequent is it in British
English to use 'could have' meaning 'may/might have' in the given context.


Never. Each one has their own meaning. Of course each can be strengthened or weakened by intonation -->

he may have ...

he miiiiight/maaaaay have ...

or by adverbs

He might/may/could well have ...

He certainly/definitely/absolutely could have ...
0 Replies
 
 

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