Bob could have given Alan the permission to go home

Fk313

Senior Member
Hindi and Urdu
Hello all,

Please help me clear some confusion here.
What I am trying to say is "Bob possibly gave Alan permission to go home". (But I am not sure here if he gave permission).

So I what could be a good way to write a sentence using a Modal Verb.

1) Bob could have given Alan the permission to go home. (What confuses me here is If I am not wrong if I use "Could" it can also mean Bob had the power/capability etc to give him the permission).

2) Bob may have given Alan the permission to go home.

Many Thanks,
 
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    You are quite right in your assumptions. Sentence 1) could be ambiguous, meaning Bob was able to give permission. Sentence 2) is not ambiguous, so is probably the best one to use.

    In spoken language, emphasis and intonation might be used to show which meaning of sentence 1) is intended:

    Bob could have given Alan the permission to go home (rising intonation) – because that makes the speaker sound unsure/dubious. But i writing it's much better to use the unambiguous sentence.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would not worry about the ambiguity in (1), myself. Modal verbs often have multiple interpretations and we rely on context to work out what is meant. If the context favours one meaning, but you actually intended a different meaning, then is the time to think about changing the sentence.

    Having said that, use (2) if you feel more comfortable with it. It is quite natural.
     

    Fk313

    Senior Member
    Hindi and Urdu
    You are quite right in your assumptions. Sentence 1) could be ambiguous, meaning Bob was able to give permission. Sentence 2) is not ambiguous, so is probably the best one to use.

    In spoken language, emphasis and intonation might be used to show which meaning of sentence 1) is intended:

    Bob could have given Alan the permission to go home (rising intonation) – because that makes the speaker sound unsure/dubious. But i writing it's much better to use the unambiguous sentence.
    Having said that, use (2) if you feel more comfortable with it. It is quite natural.

    Got it, Thanks a lot :)
    As "Might' is a past form of "May" can we also use "Might" here.

    Bob might have given Alan the permission to go home.
     

    Fk313

    Senior Member
    Hindi and Urdu
    I would not worry about the ambiguity in (1), myself. Modal verbs often have multiple interpretations and we rely on context to work out what is meant. If the context favours one meaning, but you actually intended a different meaning, then is the time to think about changing the sentence.

    Having said that, use (2) if you feel more comfortable with it. It is quite natural.
    Sure, I always prefer "May" or "Might" as I am more comfortable with those verbs. But I see people using "Could" so wanted to clarify the doubts. I think it's a matter of choice, context and the intention behind saying the sentence.

    Thanks :)
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    'Might' is fine instead of 'may' for supposition or probability.
    As you say, modals can have similar functions.
    Less fine, is saying 'give the permission'. Usually/always it's 'give permission'.
     
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