I wrote :

Hezbollah might carry out some terrorist attacks 40 years ago against a known enemy to them. But what about now.

I meant that is possible (however not surely). Which tense of verb should I use.

  • That depends on what you want to say. Jan 8, 2018 at 15:20
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    The sentence given may possibly be grammatical, but it makes no sense. I suspect that what is intended is "H may have carried out some terrorist attacks 40 years ago .... But have they done so recently?" Jan 8, 2018 at 15:34
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    might|may have carried out would both work here. The speaker is conceding with may that something was possible, and conceding with might that nothing was standing in the way of something, so that it could well have taken place. The speaker is not conceding that it took place. The subsequent question "but what about now" is something of a non-sequitur. Is the question asking whether it would still be possible to do, or if there is still nothing in the way? Or is the speaker asking, as Jeff has suggested, about recent events, not present possibilities or capabilities?
    – TimR
    Jan 8, 2018 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


As is, your sentence talks about a possible action in present which is inconsistent with 40 years ago.

Since the action occurred in the past (40 years ago) you need may + perfect infinitive:

may have carried out...

This construction talks about the possibility that something happened in the past. It could also be used to say that something was true in the past.

If you were to use might +perfect infinitive, that is:

might have carried out...

then this construction would talk about past events or situations that were possible but did not happen.

  • I don't think we can go as far as to say that with might the actions did not happen. It would depend on the context. You might have called me to say you were going to be late! I waited for an hour! vs You might have called me to say you were going to be late. I don't recall, it happened so long ago. In either case, there was nothing that would have prevented your calling me.
    – TimR
    Jan 8, 2018 at 19:59
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo, I have finished digesting what you have said. Now I can understand your subtlety but I think it's too difficult to be noticed and everyone's first reaction would be that the situation didn't happen. However, I think the extremely rare cases where the action would happen might be more along the lines of: She should have arrived by now. or They both conceived that they might have reached the North Pole. or They might have reached the station by now. (grammatical or not?). :) Jan 16, 2018 at 16:22

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