The world can/may burn for all I care...

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Senior Member
I was wondering if you could use 'may/might' instead of 'can/could' in the following sentences:

The world can/may burn for all I care...
The world could burn for all he cared/The world might burn for all he cared

If so, what would be the difference in nuance?
  • Dryan

    Senior Member
    English - Northeastern U.S.
    In my dialect, “may” is rare and generally prescriptive. You are told to use it for permission but “can” and “may” are pretty much interchangeable in my experience.

    According to American English prescriptivism:

    “The world may burn for all I care.” = “I will allow it to burn.”

    “The world can burn for all I care” = “I won’t prevent it from burning.”

    The difference is subtle and not universally recognized.
    Last edited:
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