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Good evening! I took a modal verbs test at a website and one of my answers was marked off as wrong:

Julie might like to visit Kyoto when she is in Japan

I should've instead filled in "would", according to the provided answer sheet:

Julie would like to visit Kyoto when she is in Japan

What is wrong with the first sentence? One explanatory page says 'might' may be used to express future possibility. ("She might take the bus to get home.")

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They both sound fine to me. –  snailplane Jan 31 at 15:52
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Thanks, @snailplane! I guess I should find a more properly prepared modal verbs tests then. –  CopperKettle Jan 31 at 15:54
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Seems like the only reason it was "wrong" is because your test was looking for a specific answer - not because your answer was grammatically incorrect in any way. –  Abby T. Miller Jan 31 at 15:59
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If you want a native speaker's take on that test: it's dumb. Nearly every question there are multiple answers that would work. Or can work. Or should work. Crap. Some have different, but valid meanings, and it's also loaded with idioms that differ between US and British English. –  Phil Frost Jan 31 at 21:03
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Not to mention, the correct answer for "You ____ not smoke inside a hospital" is may, which isn't even an option. My score was 3/10 :-) (and yes, I passed English in school, with honors!) –  Phil Frost Jan 31 at 21:18
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1 Answer 1

up vote 15 down vote accepted

There is nothing wrong with the first sentence. It just expresses a different meaning than the second.

"Julie might like to visit Kyoto" indicates that Julie hasn't yet decided if she is going to plan the visit to Kyoto. She isn't sure if she wants to go. "Might" could also indicate that her decision to visit Kyoto depends on some other factor that we don't know about. "Julie might like to visit Kyoto, but if the weather is bad, she will stay in Tokyo."

"Julie would like to visit Kyoto" means that she definitely wants to go to Kyoto, but the trip has not been planned yet. There is still a chance that she won't go, but if you give Julie the choice, she will choose to visit Kyoto. It could also express that she wants to go to Kyoto, but cannot. "Julie would like to visit Kyoto, but train tickets are too expensive."

The phrases are very similar. They just express different degrees of how much Julie wants to go.

"Julie might like to go to Kyoto if the train tickets are not too expensive."
Julie has a little bit of interest in going to Kyoto, but it's not worth it to her if the train is expensive.

"Julie would like to go to Kyoto if the train tickets are not too expensive."
Kyoto is definitely on Julie's "places to visit" list, but she doesn't have a lot of money right now and might have to wait until a later trip to Japan to make it happen.

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I wonder why the sentence was marked wrong on a test, as it is completely grammatically correct and a perfectly good sentence. Well, I haven't seen the test, maybe the meaning is relevant. –  Jay Jan 31 at 16:08
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Your answer is spot-on, but I'd like to mention how subtle nuances can sometimes make the difference even less pronounced. Consider a woman dropping a hint to her husband: "I might like to go out for dinner on our anniversary." Sometimes, that's a shrouded and polite way of saying, "I will be very disappointed if we don't go out for dinner on our anniversary." (Hopefully, the husband has his ears tuned the right frequency, and he'll make reservations very soon; otherwise, he might want to go hide a blanket in the doghouse.) –  J.R. Jan 31 at 21:17
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The test is straight forward there are key words to look out for. When a sentence contains: "I'm not sure" the modal verb required (in these standard tests) is might. If a sentence ends with "please" start the request sentence with could or may. These type of tests are meant to help learners to practice the BASICS. No one is suggesting they cover every single instance of normal everyday speech. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 1 at 14:31
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cont'd. That is why you still need human beings to mark papers. A computer will mark "I got the 7 o'clock train" wrong because it has been programmed to accept "caught" as the correct option. A "real" teacher will accept the "got" answer as being grammatical and logical. And mark "I catched an ice-cream" as being wrong. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 1 at 14:32
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Your first definition is by no means the only possible interpretation. Firstly, and most obviously, it might be the Julie definitely does want to visit Kyoto, but the speaker doesn't know this for sure. But also it's idiomatically standard to say "You might like to do X" meaning "The possibility of doing X is open to you" (often with the implication that doing X is a good idea, being recommended). It would be perfectly normal to say OP's first example to Julie's mother, while Julie was present, with the primary sense being "I recommend Julie should visit Kyoto". Other nuances exist. –  FumbleFingers Feb 1 at 19:14
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