Are "can" and "might" exchangeable? How exactly do they differ?

In the following sentence, can we use either?

What human beings do can be intentional in that they have voluntary control over what they do.

Here by "can be intentional" I mean some of what human beings do are intentional.


1 Answer 1


Can expresses ability or capability.

He can jump over that hedge.

It cannot rain when the temperature is 30 below zero. But it can snow.

might expresses a possibility, something that nothing is preventing from happening or that nothing would have prevented from happening. It isn't or wasn't necessarily a likelihood, but it certainly isn't or wasn't an impossibility.

It might rain today.

He might jump over that hedge. I know he can do it. He seems to be getting ready to do it.

The dog might have eaten your sandwich.

Since dogs can eat sandwiches (probably in just a gulp or two) and the sandwich is gone, it's possible that the dog ate your sandwich. He was nearby when you took it out of your knapsack and laid it there on that log.

The dog might have phoned your sister to say you were running late. How else would she have found out?
-- The dog can't have phoned my sister. He does not know her number and it is unlisted.

  • So, can we say, can=there is possibility/ability, and might=there is no impossibility/inability?
    – Sasan
    Mar 7, 2018 at 20:21
  • And, then which one is the right one for "what we receive from others ----- be intentional"?
    – Sasan
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:01
  • There is no "right one" in many circumstances. Sometimes either word could be used with a different meaning. Your sentence "What we receive..." has so little context that I do not know what you wish to say. You might even wish to say could there.
    – TimR
    Mar 8, 2018 at 11:56

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