It may/might have/have been changed

ADMP

Senior Member
Sinhaleese - Sri Lanka
Hi Everybody can you please let me know the exact different between these tow?
  1. If I go there, the things may/might have changed
  2. If I go there, the things may/might have been changed
 
  • dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    No difference, except that the first sentence is active and the second passive. The second emphasizes that there was an active force - someone or something unnamed bringing about the change, and the first concentrates only on the change.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi Everybody can you please let me know the exact different between these tow?
    1. If I go there, the things may/might have changed
    2. If I go there, the things may/might have been changed
    Hi, ADMB,

    I'm more old-fashioned than Dobes.

    I'd have to say : if I go there, the things may have changed (or been changed)

    Or:

    If I had gone there, the things might have changed (or been changed)

    It's a matter of sequence of tenses.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    I'm not sure how things used to be, but the current horribly confusing teaching now is that 'might' is the past tense of 'may' when the function of the modal is permission: 'May I leave the table?" "He said I might leave the table", etc. But when may or might is used in terms of probability, then either may or might (or could) is present tense and may have, might have, or could have plus the particle of the following verb is past tense: 'He may be the killer' is the same as 'He might be the killer' and both are present tense; 'He may have been the killer' is the same as 'He might have been the killer' and both are past tense.

    My students HATE that modals have different past tenses depending on their function in the sentence!
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    But when may or might is used in terms of probability, then either may or might (or could) is present tense and may have, might have, or could have plus the particle of the following verb is past tense: 'He may be the killer' is the same as 'He might be the killer' and both are present tense; 'He may have been the killer' is the same as 'He might have been the killer' and both are past tense.
    I think fussy BE speakers would disagree with a lot of this, Dobes.

    'He may be the killer' is NOT the same as 'He might be the killer'. Might to my ear implies less probability than may.

    'He may have been the killer' is the NOT same as 'He might have been the killer' for the same reason.

    You say that both these last two are in the past tense, as if to imply that this means you can say: If I had gone there, the things may have changed (or been changed), which still sounds strange to my ear.

    I've assuming that you mean that they will already have changed - so I found them changed when I got there. I don't think you can say If I had gone there, the things may have changed (or been changed) - even if the the changes were subsequent to, and probably a result of my going. Most reasonably educated people would say: If I had gone there, the things might have changed (or been changed)
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    Well, Tomas Tompion, I do disagree with what you say, so I guess we can agree to disagree!

    Truthfully, as a native American speaker, 'reasonably educated' and in the company of other educated people most of the time, "may have been" doesn't bother my ear at all. But, being American, 'may' is a word I hardly ever use myself. Formally, I would use it for permission, but informally I use 'can', like most Americans. And, when talking about possibilities, I prefer 'might' and 'could' in both past and present tenses.

    So, most of my information about the use of 'may' comes from the British English textbooks my classes are assigned, from the Oxford and Cambridge University presses. It's what I have to teach my students, and it's what I do teach them, and I assume that the books are usually correct and somewhat authoritative, but in my own speech, 'may' simply doesn't come into play very often.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'd been wondering if it was a clash between AE and BE, but what you say, dobes, suggests that this isn't a factor.

    Note that I'm happy to say: if I go there things may have changed. I'm surprised your sources don't say anything about the sequence of tenses in such cases. I'll see if I can find something reasonably authoritative.

    I should have made clear that I was and am only talking about BE. I wasn't trying to be offensive with that bit about educated people: the fact is that uneducated people in the UK have all sorts of wild ways of using these words.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    No difference, except that the first sentence is active and the second passive. The second emphasizes that there was an active force - someone or something unnamed bringing about the change, and the first concentrates only on the change.
    I agree with dobes entirely.
    As to the may/might issue, as far as I'm concerned "may" is sometimes used for permission (in which case it is more formal than can), and "may" is more formal than "might" when referring to possibility, and the difference ends there.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I would use might have, never may have, after If I had gone or after If I went, but I would not use may have been changed just after If I go.

    I might say "If I go there, I may find that things have changed" or "If I go there, I might find that things have changed", not feeling the difference as a change in tense in the traditional (Latin) sense, but as a change in "immediacy".
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Less or more immediate, Forero? And how about probability? Does may sound more or less probable?
    May is more immediate, might is less. In terms of probability, may is more probable and might is further off in the world of "perhaps" or "if it were". Or maybe I'm just afraid to think about certain possibilities.

    Sometimes might, would, could, and should seem like past tenses, but sometimes they are just less "immediate" (until I think of a better term) than may, will, can, and shall with no change time- or tense-wise.

    For example, I might want to remove myself a little by asking, "Could I have another one?" rather than the more immediate in-your-face "Can I have another one?"
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I fear I'm having second thoughts about if I go there things may have changed, not because of the sequence of tenses, but because the logic of the sentence is suggesting that the change in things may be in some way consquent on my going.

    If I go I will see him. My seeing him is a consequence of my going.

    If I go things may have changed doesn't work because things perhaps having changed is not a suggested consequence of my going.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I have been reading these sentences as "If I go there, things ...", but I see the word "the" now. What things?

    Personally, I don't have a problem with "If I go there, the things may have changed." To me it means something like "The things may have changed by the time, if any, that I get there". It does not appear (to me) to mean "If the things [may?] have changed, it's because of my going." If it did, of course "may" would not make sense.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have been reading these sentences as "If I go there, things ...", but I see the word "the" now. What things?

    Personally, I don't have a problem with "If I go there, the things may have changed." To me it means something like "The things may have changed by the time, if any, that I get there". It does not appear (to me) to mean "If the things [may?] have changed, it's because of my going." If it did, of course "may" would not make sense.
    So when you say 'if I go I see him', you don't think you see him because you go?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hi, all.

    Let me first give my answer to the original question. (Sorry I've neglected to do that yet.)

    Hi, Everybody.

    Can you please let me know the exact difference/B] between these two?
    1. If I go there, the things may/might have changed
    2. If I go there, the things may/might have been changed


    The difference between "the things may/might have changed" and "the things may/might have been changed" is:

    In the first, the things themselves are the agents of the possible change.
    In the second, something or someone else is the agent.

    But there appear to be two intersecting pairs of choices in ADMP's question. The other pair of choices is:

    A. If I go there, the things may have (been) changed
    B. If I go there, the things might have (been) changed

    The difference between may and might, in this context at least, is that might seems to say the change is less probable than may seems to say that it is.

    My theory is that:

    1. Might is the past tense of may, but
    2. The meaning of past tense is different with may than with most other verbs.
    3. With may and a few other verbs, past tense does not always mean past time (something or someone happening, being, or doing something at a time before now) but that whatever the verb says has less "immediacy".
    4. "Immediacy" is a term I am using (at least until a better word for this idea comes up) for the idea that one idea is less or more removed from consideration, as if an idea could be obscured though still being expressed.
    5. In the clauses in question, the use of might (which I am calling less "immediate") as opposed to may tends to imply that things having (been) changed is less probable (being removed from the world of matter-of-fact statements by an idea like "perhaps" or "if it were") or, maybe, that things having (been) changed is more frightening in a sense (being removed from bold statements of fact by an idea like "I hope not").
    6. In other sentences might can be used instead of may to show deference, or some such, which also makes it less "immediate" or bold:

    "Might I have another cup of tea?" (more removed, i.e. less bold, than "May I have another cup of tea?")

    I hope this helps, ADMP.

    Another issue with the clauses in ADMP's question is whether they are logical and complete. The current discussion has to do with logic:

    So when you say 'if I go I see him', you don't think you see him because you go?
    My answer to this is no. "If I go, I see him" (the comma does not change the meaning but is more traditional) does not imply that I see him because I go. I may yet see him even if I don't go.

    According to Thomas's theory, if I am understanding him, the sentence in green is not logical. Yet I am using it expecting him to see my meaning.

    Thomas, does the sentence in green make sense? I may be able to put it some other way.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi, Forero,

    To answer your question to me:

    When I say 'if I go, I see him', I mean that by going I cause myself to see him. That means I see him because I go.

    That doesn't imply that there aren't other things which might cause me to see him, like arranging a meeting with him; those other possibilities in no way affect my previous statement that I cause myself to see him by going: if I go, I see him.

    I'm very far from saying that your sentence in green is illogical; it could be perfectly true; after all it's entirely consistent with the sentence I've put in blue, which I hold to be true.

    If x is consequent upon y, that doesn't mean that x might not be consequent up many other things. I don't think your sentence in green justifies your answering 'no' to my question. It seems to me to be beside the point. The question is just whether you think saying 'if I go, I see him' means that your going causes you to see him; I'm surprised that you can answer 'no' to this question.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've simplified the sentences and put the if clauses in the same places in each, to help clarify things.


    I may see him if I don't go

    Things may have changed if I go.


    In your green sentence (which we agree is fine) there is a possible link between your not going and your seeing him. You stayed at home, perhaps, and he called. That's all very possible and logically acceptable.

    In the second example (which I don't like) the logic is that your going may cause things to have changed. Now, of course, your going may change things, and I'd be happy with if I go I will change things, because that implied causal link is entirely plausible. But I don't see how your going now can cause things to have changed in the past. If people had known I was going, things would have changed, is, again, fine - the causal link is plausible.

    It's the implausibility of the causal link in the second example which makes it unacceptable in my view; its apparent linguistic similarity with your green sentence is irrelevant.

    I think people loosely say if I go things will have changed to mean when I go I will find that things have changed. I deplore this error, particularly in formal writing where it is quite common.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Thanks, Thomas.

    I think you are saying that "if" is completely synonymous with "because", but to me "if" means "assuming that" or "supposing that".

    Suppose someone says -

    I will see you tomorrow, I promise. If it rains, I'll see you. If it snows, I'll see you. No matter what, I'll see you tomorrow.

    - I don't see anything illogical here, nor would I think the person means that snow could cause him or her to see me. It means among other things that snow won't cause him or her not to see me.

    With my interpretation, the following are also logical:

    1. I don't say things can't change. If I go, they may change. If I don't go, they may change. No matter what, they may change.

    2. Things will change - can't say when. Things will change no matter what I do. They may even have changed when I wake up tomorrow morning. It makes no difference whether I stay home and wake up in my own bed or go camping tonight and wake up under the stars. If I go, things may have changed. If I don't go, things may have changed. No matter what, things may very well have changed.
     

    dobes

    Senior Member
    US English(Boston/NY)
    I wouldn't see the relationship as causal, but these sentences ARE conditionals, and one clause is meant to be conditional on the other. I think of 'if' as meaning 'in the event that'. So, in the sentence being examined, the meaning to me is 'in the event that I go, things may have changed.'

    I agree with Thomas Tompion that this is not very logical, because the change is independent of my going, and conditional sentences are used for things that are contingent upon one another. But when I first read this sentence it didn't seem particularly illogical to me, perhaps because I added another phrase in my head, as if it were implied in the sentence. I read the sentence as, "If I go, things may have changed, and that will upset me."
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm still not happy with this, dobes, even when you substitute in the event that for if.

    in the event that I go, things may have changed

    to me still seems to me to suggest that my going is a sufficient condition for things possibly having changed. Yet nobody could possibly be trying to say that because it's not possible for my going now to cause things to have changed in the past. I remember a moment in Language, Truth and Logic where Ayer argues that it's possible for an effect to temporally precede its cause but I don't think I was persuaded, and I remain sceptical.

    I think that the only sensible construction I could put on in the event that I go, things may have changed is were I to go I might find things had changed. I would then wonder why the person hadn't said that in the first place.

    Remember my caveat about educated speech here. Vigorous but uneducated users of the language make all sorts of errors of this kind. I'm interested in whether good users of AE could use the forms you mention.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I wouldn't see the relationship as causal, but these sentences ARE conditionals, and one clause is meant to be conditional on the other. I think of 'if' as meaning 'in the event that'. So, in the sentence being examined, the meaning to me is 'in the event that I go, things may have changed.'

    I agree with Thomas Tompion that this is not very logical, because the change is independent of my going, and conditional sentences are used for things that are contingent upon one another. But when I first read this sentence it didn't seem particularly illogical to me, perhaps because I added another phrase in my head, as if it were implied in the sentence. I read the sentence as, "If I go, things may have changed, and that will upset me."
    I need some help with this last sentence, that is with how you see the if changing meaning when you add that last part.

    Does if still mean "in the event that" or does it need a different "translation" when the last part is added?

    Is the fact that I go contingent upon both the fact that things may have changed and the fact that it will upset me?
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi Everybody can you please let me know the exact different between these tow?
    1. If I go there, the things may/might have changed
    2. If I go there, the things may/might have been changed
    Hi All,

    What a great and lively debate.

    I agree with those who say the main difference between sentence 1 and 2 is that in 2 it is more clear that some unnamed agent may/might have caused the change.

    I have some familiarity with formal logic, and the standard construction of

    If p, then q. Here p and q are propositions that may only be either TRUE or FALSE. The given sentence means that whenever p is TRUE, q is also TRUE. (When p is FALSE, we don't know if q is TRUE or FALSE)

    I believe that formal logic has almost no bearing on language use. And that we can't depend on the insights from formal logic to explain the meaning of normal language use.

    ---
    I'm going to propose another interpretation to sentences 1 and 2. Rather than suggesting that the going causes changes, I'm going to suggest that the going is another indicator of the changes.

    Example scenario:

    I am involved in some complicated business negotiation, and am updating my boss with current status. I expect to complete the deal without traveling to city X, but between now and when this deal is done, however some changes may/might occur that would cause me to go to city X to resolve them. My plan is to stay where I am and continue to work on the project. (I now tell my boss what it would mean if he learns that I've gone to city X by uttering sentence 1 or 2).

    I hope this helps to explain why I think the sentences do not make clear that my going causes the changes.

    EDIT: I don't mean to suggest that the scenario presented gives the likely interpretation of 1 and 2, merely to illustrate that the sentences are ambiguous.
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi, A Word Lover. Do you hold that when you say 'if I go, I see him', you are not implying that your going causes you to see him?
    Hi,

    No.
    "If I go, I see him.", suggests to me that the going does in fact cause me to see him. The cause and effect relation is the one I would expect the sentence to mean.

    The difference in the tenses in this sentence compared to the example sentences make it hard to argue that my going is an indicator that I saw him, because the sentence says I see him.

    I could, with great effort , try to imagine some interpretation where I mean that if it is true that I go, then it is true that I see him, but the relationship is somehow considered to be more incidental than cause and effect.

    Ok, here is a farfetched scenario to illustrate my point.
    Imagine that I have very poor vision and have broken my glasses, this leaves me effectively blind. When I go, I'm going to get a set of replacement glasses that will allow me to see things again.

    If I go, I see him. (here if I go, then I see anything, including him, but it is really if I replace my glasses and get my vision back, that causes me to be able to see him - not the going.)
     

    Prower

    Banned
    Russian
    Is my conclusion possible?

    If I go things may change. (I change things by my going)


    If I go things may have been changed. (If i go I might see that things have been changed by someone else not me)
     
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    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Is my conclusion possible?

    If I go things may change. (I change things by my going)


    If I go things may have been changed. (If i go I might see that things have been changed by someone else not me)
    If I go things may change. (I change things by my going):tick:

    If I go things may have been changed. (If i go I might see that things have been changed by someone else not me):cross:

    If I go, things may be changed. (If i go I might see that things have been changed by someone else not me):tick:

    Some possibilities with "have been":

    If I go, things may have been changed by the time I get back. (If I go and come back at a later date, other people might change things while I'm away)

    If I had gone, things might have been changed. (At some point in the past I decided to stay, and this is probably the reason that nobody changed anything)
     

    ALEX1981X

    Banned
    Italian
    Hi guys :)

    Can somebody explain me why "If I go there, the things might have changed" is plain wrong from the point of view of sequence of tenses I mean

    Isn't it like "If I go there, it is possible that the things have changed" ???

    Might is the past of May I agree, but it is also a softer and less likely version of May and it can be simple present as well :confused:

    Any insight on this guys ??

    Thanks a lot
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    People are very lax in their use of might and may, Alex.

    Your proposed sentence, in the form I prefer, If I go there, things may have changed, is not a true conditional sentence, in my view. There's no sense in which the fact that things may have changed could be the result of my going there.

    Aren't you really saying something like When I go there, I may find that things have changed?
     
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    ALEX1981X

    Banned
    Italian
    People are very lax in their use of might and may, Alex.

    Your proposed sentence, in the form I prefer, If I go there, things may have changed, is not a true conditional sentence, in my view.Yes I agree There's no sense in which the fact that things have changed is the result of my going there.

    Aren't you really saying something like When I go there, I may find that things have changed.
    Was it a question Thomas ?

    Yes I just want to know if from a sequence of tenses point of view we can substitute "may" with "Might" in the sentence above... What do you think ??
    And yes to me (but I can be wrong)

    When I go there, I may find that things have changed = When I go there, the things might have changed = When I go there, It is possible that things have changed

    Am I off track ?
     

    ALEX1981X

    Banned
    Italian
    I think you've spent time with English speakers who are lax about the difference between may and might.
    It could be Thomas I'm not a native and I cannot judge. :) What do you think ??

    Might in the sentence above is only "Past" or it can be seen as a less likely version of May ??

    Please tell me which among the equivalences I wrote above is correct or acceptable
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If I go there, the things might have changed
    This is the sentence you are talking about, Alex, isn't it? I've given you my reactions:

    1. It's not a true conditional sentence for the reasons I gave.
    2. Change the if to when, which is what it means, one sees the absurdity: When I go there, things might have changed.
    3. What the person is trying to say is When I go there, I may find that things have changed.
     

    ALEX1981X

    Banned
    Italian
    Isn't it possible that there's an unsaid part in the sentence ??

    When I go there, (I might discover that) things might have changed
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've been telling you it should be When I go there, I may discover that things have changed.

    I've told you that people use these formulae. I thought you wanted to know how to say these things in a way which won't make you look uneducated.
     

    ALEX1981X

    Banned
    Italian
    I've been telling you it should be When I go there, I may discover that things have changed.

    I've told you that people use these formulae. I thought you wanted to know how to say these things in a way which won't make you look uneducated.
    Frankly I didn't know it was the way "uneducated" people speak. I thought it was at least an alternative
    Thanks Thomas
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I hope you've got a good book to help you with this. This Wikipedia article may provide a start:

    "May" should only be used where the event in question is still possible, not for something that was possible in the past, or for a hypothetical present possibility. "Might" is properly the past tense form of "may". (In similar fashion, "could", "should", and "would" are all past tense forms for "can", "shall", and "will", respectively.)
    • Undisputed usage: My brother may have gone to China last week (perhaps he did)
    • Disputed usage: If he had not been prevented, my brother may have gone to China last week (but he didn't)
    • Undisputed usage: If he had not been prevented, my brother might have gone to China last week.
    • Disputed usage: He thought it may be true (but it wasn't)
    • Undisputed usage: He thought it might be true.

    I think he should have added that might can be the conditional of may.
     

    ALEX1981X

    Banned
    Italian
    I hope you've got a good book to help you with this. This Wikipedia article may provide a start:

    "May" should only be used where the event in question is still possible, not for something that was possible in the past, or for a hypothetical present possibility. "Might" is properly the past tense form of "may". (In similar fashion, "could", "should", and "would" are all past tense forms for "can", "shall", and "will", respectively.)
    • Undisputed usage: My brother may have gone to China last week (perhaps he did)
    • Disputed usage: If he had not been prevented, my brother may have gone to China last week (but he didn't)
    • Undisputed usage: If he had not been prevented, my brother might have gone to China last week.
    • Disputed usage: He thought it may be true (but it wasn't)
    • Undisputed usage: He thought it might be true.

    I think he should have added that might can be the conditional of may.
    Thanks Thomas :)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I don't have any problem with if meaning "if", in the sense used in formal logic, rather than "when". The sense in formal logic does not imply cause and effect or consequence. For example, "If I go there, the door may be open" makes sense and does not mean my going there will somehow have opened the door. "The things may have changed" is a statement about conditions after a change just as "the door may be open" is a statement about conditions after someone opens the door, and "If I go there, things may have changed" makes sense too. By the way, "I go" here can be taken with either a present or a future meaning.

    I prefer to use examples to explain the use of might in place of may and why might can be used in a present tense context.

    The past tense forms of will, can, and may are would, could, and might, respectively, but they do not always indicate past time. For example, they are often used as "conditionals" as follows:

    I would go there if I were you. [I can't be you, but whenever I imagine myself in your position, I imagine my not hesitating to go there.]
    To see you again, I would go there. [Perhaps I don't normally go there, but whenever I imagine that my going there will allow me to see you again, I imagine my not hesitating to go there.]
    I would if I could. [I likely cannot, but providing I can, I will.]
    I would like a little more tea. [The meaning is something like "I want a little more tea", but less "immediate". The use of would like rather than will like or want leaves the listener free to add conditions such as "if there were any more", "if I weren't busy making more biscuits", etc. In other words, it gives the listener an "out", a bit of permission to refuse if conditions warrant. This is often called a "polite form".]
    Would it be possible for me to have a little more tea? [The meaning is something like "will it be possible ...?" or "is it possible?", but allowing an "out", for politeness for example.]

    I used would in the above examples, but could fits as well, with the meaning "would be able to." Notice that I had to use "be able to" rather than can to form a "translation" of conditional could because can does not have an infinitive.

    Might fits too, as a conditional form related to may in the same way that conditional could = "would be able to" is related to can. Unfortunately, may has neither an infinitive nor a proper "translation", but the idea is the same and can be understood by analogy: Might is to may as could is to can and as would is to will or do/does:

    Might I have a little more tea? [The meaning is something like "may I ...?", but conditional in the "polite" sense.]
    I wonder if I might have a little more tea? [Like "I wonder if I may ...", but conditional.]
    The things might have changed. [Like "the things may have changed", but conditional. Things might have changed to allow for a parade, things might have changed if they could, things might have changed if the weather were to have been amenable, etc.]
    If I go, the things might have changed. [Like "If I go, the things may have changed", but conditional. If I go, things might have changed to allow for a parade; if I go, things might have changed if they could; if I go, things might have changed if the weather were to have been amenable; etc.]

    This last sentence is somewhat unusual because the condition "if I go" is expressed, but the condition(s) associated to might are left to the imagination, but this is no more a problem for this sentence than it is for, for example, "If I go, I might want a little more tea" (conditional of "If I go, I may want a little more tea").
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Thanks Forero so to you it is acceptable if I understood correctly your point.
    Very interestind indeed
    I find the sentence itself acceptable, with may or with might, and not at all uneducated sounding, but I must admit the might version is a little hard to "get" without some help from context.

    Certainly if you do mean "When I go there, I may discover that things have changed", just say it.
     

    ALEX1981X

    Banned
    Italian
    Thanks :)

    What kind of extra context is needed in your view if we were to use the "might" version (if you go there, things might have changed)??
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    Thanks :)

    What kind of extra context is needed in your view if we were to use the "might" version (if you go there, things might have changed)??
    It would help to know where "there" is and what sort of "things" we are talking about. And what do you imagine might cause someone to think about going "there" and those "things" having changed and to want to mention them in one sentence?

    I can imagine part of a conversation that goes something like this:

    A: If you go there today, isn't it extremely likely that nothing has changed?
    B: I suppose.
    A: I mean, if you do go there, would it be at all possible for things to have changed?
    B: Yes. If I go there, things might have changed. Why are you asking this?

    This looks grammatical to me, but I am curious what A's reply will be. If you ask me whether the sentence in question is useful in the real world, I have to say I really don't know. And, I have to ask, are we leaving something out, like "discover"?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Of course, I have two objections to B's final statement, if I go there, things might have changed.

    1. It's an improper use of if; it's not a true conditional sentence: it's suggesting that the possibility of things having changed will be affected by my going there. This is why I changed it to if I go there, I may discover that... Obviously if I don't go there, I won't discover anything (my discovering something is truly conditional on my going), but whether things have changed (something which has already happened) cannot be affected by my going there (in the future).

    2. It contains the familiar mistake of might for may. Here's another page on this, Alex, which you may find helpful.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Of course, I have two objections to B's final statement, if I go there, things might have changed.

    1. It's an improper use of if; it's not a true conditional sentence: it's suggesting that the possibility of things having changed will be affected by my going there. This is why I changed it to if I go there, I may discover that... Obviously if I don't go there, I won't discover anything (my discovering something is truly conditional on my going), but whether things have changed (something which has already happened) cannot be affected by my going there (in the future).

    2. It contains the familiar mistake of might for may. Here's another page on this, Alex, which you may find helpful.
    Do you realize that this argument would not only make "If his apple is green, it might be ripe" a mistake, but it would also make "If his apple is red, it is ripe" improper?
     

    hush hush

    New Member
    Farsi
    I agree with Thomas Tompion
    There's something wrong in your statement and that is not following sequence of tenses! When U use perfect modals U need to use past tense in if clause
     

    O'Malley

    New Member
    English US
    Hi Everybody can you please let me know the exact different between these tow?
    1. If I go there, the things may/might have changed
    2. If I go there, the things may/might have been changed
    "may have" indicates (past) possibility while "might have" is a counterfactual.

    The example below is from Oxford Dictionaries Online. You can find it with a search engine, using keywords

    "may have and might have Oxford Dictionaries Online"

    Their analysis is not quite correct because it says that "may have", though not preferred, is acceptable for the counterfactual. This is a common error in news media in recent years --- maybe the past few decades. Oxford appears to be starting to cave in to prevalent, but incorrect, usage. I promise you that this error was not made in reputable print or broadcast media prior to 1960 and would have been routinely corrected by English teachers at the middle school level.

    Here is what Oxford says:

    "... there is a distinction between may have and might have in certain contexts. If the truth of a situation is still not known at the time of speaking or writing, either of the two is acceptable:

    By the time you read this, he may have made his decision.
    I think that comment might have offended some people.

    If the event or situation referred to did not in fact occur, it's better to use might have:

     "The draw against Italy might have been a turning point, but it didn't turn out like that."

     My position is that only "might have" is correct in this sentence and that "may have" is simply wrong. I believe that you will agree if you think carefully about it.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Welcome to the forum, O'Malley.

    We have not established that we are talking about the past. After "If I go", we expect something about the future, or else about the present. And we have a big problem with the fact that the original poster seems to have disappeared without providing context.

    I think the sentences are both grammatical, but with somewhat different meanings, but, for all we know, the way I read them may be completely alien to the intended context. My explanations here have been mainly for Alex1981x's benefit since he, I think rightly, does not see the sentences as categorically ungrammatical.

    Others have objected to the sequence of tenses and even to the use of if when causation is (apparently) not meant to be implied. Again, without context, there is nothing to cue understanding, and "meaningless" is a possible interpretation.

    We now have opinions from different people saying that both sentences are wrong, that both are right, that only may have is right, and now that only might have is right.

    I am curious whether you read "If I go" as "If I had gone" or whether you agree with me that the tenses are mixed in an unusual, but not ungrammatical, way.
     

    O'Malley

    New Member
    English US
    I was addressing the most common and egregious error in confusing "may have" and "might have". However, it does not exactly address the question originally posed. Therefore, my comment is probably best read as an independent or stand-alone observation.

    The original question is:

    "Hi Everybody can you please let me know the exact different between these two?
    1. If I go there, the things may/might have changed
    2. If I go there, the things may/might have been changed"

    First of all, aside from the "may - might" issue, 1. talks about things changing and 2. talks about things being changed (an external influence is implied).

    Now for the "may - might" issue. My view is that the tense and modality of "may" should agree with the those of "go". So for 1., the correct forms would be:

    "If I go there, the things may have changed" and "If I were go there, the things might have changed"

    and for 2., the correct forms would be

    "If I go there, the things may have been changed" and "If I were to go there, the things might have been changed"

    You can see that, when "might have" is used, the context is counterfactual: the basis is the implicitly counterfactual hypothesis "If I were to go there".

    Another point is that these sentences are semantically suspect. I can't think of a context in which they make sense, because there does not seem to be a possible semantic connection between "me going there" and things changing (or being changed).
     

    bobo85

    Member
    turkish
    Could I join with a question?
    Suppose that a person was kidnapped by the members of a gang, and consider these two different cases: In the first case, you do not have any information about what happened to this person. You do not know whether he is still alive or dead. So you say, "He may/might have been killed". In the second scenario, someone rescues him and you know that he is alive, but "being dead" was a possibility for this person, so you say "He may/might have been killed". (But he hasn't!)

    Now, my theory as a non-native speaker of English is that in the first case people generally use "may", and in the second case they use "might". Would you agree?
     
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