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I forgot to file my taxes. I got an email that, in the subject line, said something like:

Your student grants might be converted into loans.

This worried me, because I thought it was saying that my grants were possibly already converted into loans. (ie, present tense). When I opened the email, I learned that they meant that my grants might be converted into loans at a future date, if I don't hurry up and file my taxes very soon.

If I try to put this sentence into the future tense, by replacing "be" with "will be", I get:

Your student grants might will be converted into loans.

which doesn't sound right.

How do I convert "might be" into the future tense?

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    We can regard "might be" is the future tense. (I might be going to Mexico next winter, e.g.) Had the event already happened, it would have read, "Your student grants might have been converted into loans".
    – J.R.
    Feb 14, 2018 at 10:53
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    The construction X might be Y is inherently ambiguous as regards whether it means X might (already) be Y at time of utterance, or that X might become Y at some future time. Feb 14, 2018 at 14:05
  • As a side note, the use of "might be" like this, in legal or financial communications where you are on the owing side, usually is just softened language. It probably means "will be".
    – user3169
    Feb 15, 2018 at 0:22

1 Answer 1

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Your student grants might will be converted into loans.

There's some very informal American Southern style slang that actually does this and wouldn't be immediately considered weird to say. It's definitely still something you don't want to say outside of that type of context, though.

Here's a perspective that might help: When you say something might happen, as in might X, you don't know if it has happened or not. So you can't really assign a tense to X, because it's a "grey area." You can't say X happened, is happening, or will happen if it might happen.

If you want to remove all ambiguity that you are talking about a future event or an event that hasn't happened, the only thing that can be done is to explicitly state the time frame.

Your student grants might be converted into loans at a future date.

Otherwise, typically context will resolve the ambiguity. Sometimes modals are left ambiguous on purpose.

In your case--an email subject line--there is little established context for you, and the writer of the email really should have put something like "Your student grants my be converted into loans soon" or similar.

You were right to question things.

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