previous next


VERBS, AUXILIARY. Might = "could"

Might, the past tense of may, was originally used in the sense of "was able" or "could." “He was of grete elde and might not travaile.” R. BRUNNE.

So

“That mought not be distinguish'd.

“So loving to my mother,
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly.

i.e. "could not bring himself to allow the winds," &c.

It answers to "can" in the following:--

Ang. Look, what I will not that I cannot do.
Isab. But might you do't, and do the world no wrong?

“Might you not know she would do as she has done?

i.e. "Could you not know."

“I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch
Of mine own eyes.

“But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft quench'd in the chaste
beams of the wat'ry moon.

“In that day's feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,
He proved best man i' the field.

i.e. "when he was young enough to be able to play the part of a woman on the stage."

Might naturally followed may through the above-mentioned changes. Care must be taken to distinguish between the indicative and the conditional use of might. "How might that be?" (indicative) would mean "How was it possible for that to take place?" On the other hand, "How might that be?" (subjunctive) would mean "How would it be possible hereafter that this should take place?" The same ambiguity still attends "could." Thus "How could I thus forget myself yesterday!" but "How could I atone to-morrow for my forgetfulness yesterday?"

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: