Consider this sentence,

If you want to enhance the soil, you might spread the ashes on the garden.

Can we paraphrase might in the above sentence using any of the following?

1) it is/will possible for you to; for example:

If you want to enhance the soil, it is/will possible for you to spread the ashes on the garden.

2) maybe you will; for example:

If you want to enhance the soil, maybe you will spread the ashes on the garden.

If none of the above options is correct, which seems likely to me, how'd you paraphrase might in the original sentence?

  • I don't see how "might" fits there. To me, the only options that seem to be most relevant are "should", "need to", "have to", and "must". Also, you can choose not to use anything there: "If you want to enhance the soil, you spread the ashes ..." But that has to do with context.
    – AIQ
    Apr 16 '20 at 20:06

You could use the word "could":

"If you want to improve the soil, you could spread ashes in the garden."

Unless you are talking about a particular pile of ashes, you shouldn't say "the ashes".

In your suggested paraphrases, "maybe you will" doesn't fit. The words "might" and "could" are both suitable, referring to what you can do to improve the soil.

  • Thank you. Is there any possibility I could use paraphrase 1)?
    – Mr. X
    Apr 16 '20 at 20:22
  • 1
    "It will be possible for you to spread ashes". "Yes, it will be possible for you to use that expression" = "You could use that expression! " But should you? Apr 16 '20 at 20:26
  • I'd never use paraphrase 1) though. Just wanted to know whether it is possible.
    – Mr. X
    Apr 16 '20 at 20:33

In this construction, might, may, or could all have very similar meanings. What is important is perhaps the words that aren't used!

It doesn't say you "should" or "must" spread the ashes. And the implied sense is that there is a better idea.

..., you might spread the ashes on the garden [but this isn't usually the best thing to do]

By not saying "you should spread the ashes", the writer suggests that this is possible by not advised. You would expect the paragraph to continue with a suggestion about what to do instead.


May/might X means X is allowed to happen, either by circumstances, removal of a blocking condition, permission, or other condition as specified by any if X.

You may X can mean "I give you permission to do X" and this implies X can't do something unless you say it's OK.

To avoid sounding like that, might can be used instead.


There are shades of meaning here.

"Might" can mean "it is possible that". Like if you said, "You might win the race", you mean "It is possible that you will win the race". It's not a certainly, but it's not impossible either.

But "might" is also used to mean something like "you should consider the option". In this example, when the person says, "You might consider spread ashes on the garden", he doesn't really mean that it is possible that you will but not certain. He means that this is an option that you should consider.

Which it means depends on context. Like if I said, "If you need money, you might enter this contest", I presumably mean that the contest has a cash prize and you should consider entering the contest to win the prize. But if I said, "If you work hard, you might win this contest", I surely mean that there is a possibility that you will win but not a certainty.

"Might" in this sense of "consider" is almost always used with "you". "You might do this". When used in the third person, "Bob might do this", it usually refers to a possibility.

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