1

According to the rules of "Speculation Modals", we use "may / could / might + inf" to guess things in the present

Eg: I may / might / could be late today

"Speculation Modals" say that we use "may / could / might + have + PP" to guess things in the past

Eg: I may / might / could have been late yesterday

According to the rules of "Indirect speech", we have to change "May--> might; could ---> could & might--> might" when we change from direct into indirect speech

Eg: David said "I may be late today"= David said he might be late yesterday (this statement is said 1 day later)

But the phrase "he might be late yesterday" broke the rules of "Speculation Modals". That is, to speculate a past event, we have to say "he might have been late yesterday"

I don't understand

Do we care about the rules of "Speculation Modals" when we change speculation modals from "direct into indirect speech"?

0

If I say

He said yesterday he might be late.

I am reporting what he said about an event which was in his future at the time of his words. He could have been on the road and due to meet with me at 2PM but traffic was going to delay him until 2:30. Or he could have been speaking about something which was scheduled for today or next week. Suffice to say, the event he was speaking about was in his future at the time.

If I say

He said yesterday he might have been late.

I am reporting what he said about an event that was in his past. He is trying to recall whether he had arrived on time or arrived late. There is a distinct possibility that he was not on time for that event.

  • This link (dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/…) says "We can use a perfect form with have + -ed form after modal verbs, especially where the report looks back to a hypothetical event in the past:". Not sure if your saying is similar to that – Tom Dec 1 '17 at 16:50
  • It is similar, if not exactly hypothetical. In my example, He said he might have been late, it is a possibility (it could be the reality) whereas a past hypothetical would be like He said he might have erected a colossal statue of a dog if he had been emperor. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 1 '17 at 18:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.