# A very small probability and possibility

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#### Tenacious Learner

##### Senior Member
Hello teachers,
I have found definitions on may and might that say:
a) They can express a very small probability in doing or happening something in the present or future.
b) They can express a possibility in doing or happening something in the present or future.

Definitions for possibility and probability
"Possibility" means something may happen, but we don't know how probable.
"Probability" means something may happen, but we believe it is more probable than not.
Reasoning:
So I could say there is a possibility of rain next week; but I think there is a probability of rain tonight, because I can see dark clouds.

Can I conclude that " a very small probability" and "possibility" mean the same?

• #### Nipnip

##### Senior Member
No you should not and you also should not try to make sense of those definitions. Just keep looking at examples and see how they're used. If your mother tongue is Spanish, we do have exact equivalents.

#### Thomas Tompion

##### Senior Member
In my experience we don't use a possibility and a probability of rain in quite the ways you suggest, TS.

Look, for instance, at this ngram: I've deliberately chosen English Fiction in order to exclude technical writing.

I think in everyday speech it's quite unusual to say 'there is a probability of rain', though 'a possibility of rain' is a relatively normal expression.

Also, you define probable in terms of itself - better to say that
"Probability" means something may happen, and we believe it is more likely than not.

#### Tenacious Learner

##### Senior Member
No you should not and you also should not try to make sense of those definitions. Is there a reason in not doing that? In fact, I have just try to make sense. The question can arise in class anytime, can't it?.
Just keep looking at examples and see how they're used. If your mother tongue is Spanish, we do have exact equivalents. I know we have, but I never translate in class.
Hello Nipnip,

TS

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#### Tenacious Learner

##### Senior Member
Hi Thomas,
Thanks for your reply. Then, it is much better to use this definition for May and Might:
b) They can express a possibility in doing or happening something in the present or future. Right?

Thanks for the definition about "probability" too.

TS

#### Thomas Tompion

##### Senior Member
You need to say 'a possibility of something happening'. Your expression is not idiomatic.

I'd leave the present and future out of it, because if it's happening in the present, it's become a fact rather than possible.

#### Nipnip

##### Senior Member
Hello Nipnip,

TS
Hola, Thinking Spain.

My argument is that those definitions seem to be given for specific teaching purposes and are usually tailored to match the teaching methodologies and the coursework. It makes them useless for general definitions or for other courses different to the one they were designed for.

He might be late.
He may be late.

I really don't see much of a difference in the sentences above, except for personal intuitions or judgement at a given moment. Teachers say, though, that there is more of a chance of something happening with "may". How they measure that possibility again, is a mystery to me. It is all based on subjective perception.

#### Tenacious Learner

##### Senior Member
You need to say 'a possibility of something happening'. Your expression is not idiomatic.

I'd leave the present and future out of it, because if it's happening in the present, it's become a fact rather than possible.
Hi Thomas,
Thanks a lot for correcting me. Yours 'a possibility of something happening' includes without a doubt both: people and things! I really like it!

TS

#### Tenacious Learner

##### Senior Member
Hola, Thinking Spain.
I really don't see much of a difference in the sentences above, except for personal intuitions or judgement at a given moment. Teachers say, though, that there is more of a chance of something happening with "may". How they measure that possibility again, is a mystery to me. It is all based on subjective perception.
Hello, Nipnip.