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He might have gone. But luckily we reached his house and found him.

He might go. But luckily we reached his house and found him.

What do the bold sentences mean?

Do they refer to the past?

When to use 'might' and when to use 'might have'?

Which of the above sentences is correct in the context?

Can we use 'might' to refer a past action without mentioning the context?

Please answer me all of the above questions with explanation. I've been struggling with it but stuck with the confusion.

Another question is regarding to the following sentence: I might go.

What does the sentence mean?

Is it describing the past or the future?

How to understand?

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  • [There's a possibility that x, isn't there?]
    – Lambie
    Jul 13, 2022 at 20:46

2 Answers 2

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He might have gone = There was a possibility that he had already gone. (past tense)

He might go (and I might go) refer to a possibility either in the past or the present. We thought he might go, but he didn't. I might go out later if it stops raining. He might go doesn't really fit with '...but luckily we reached his house and found him'.

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  • But he might have gone = There's a possibility that he has gone. Isn't it? Then how to understand what it really means? Jul 2, 2020 at 11:14
  • Why doesn't He might go fit with '... But luckily we reached his house and found him'.? Jul 2, 2020 at 11:17
  • CONTEXT is all-important! ...but luckily we reached his house and found him indicates that he had not gone, so in this context He might have gone can have only one meaning. Jul 2, 2020 at 12:08
  • Similarly, he might go implies uncertainty, so it makes no sense to follow it with a definite statement. Jul 2, 2020 at 12:14
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    "I thought he might be late because the roads were so busy, but he managed to get here on time." Jul 2, 2020 at 19:45
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Might is a modal auxiliary verb. It refers to possibility, not certainty. It has many uses and meanings, like all modals. And any sentence with might usually has several possible meanings, depending on context.

  • He might go.

means that at some time in the future, it is possible that he will go (whatever go means in the context -- go to a party, leave town, move to Chicago, die, kill himself, ...). That possibility is presented by the speaker as their own judgement; and the speaker might be wrong, after all. It also presents the speaker's judgement that his going is possible -- nothing prevents it, and nobody can predict it. It's much the same as He may go, but considered less likely and predictable by the speaker.

  • He might have gone.

means the same thing as may go, except that it's referring to the past, instead of the future. It says that the speaker judges that his going (whatever that meant) might have happened in the past. Maybe it happened, or maybe it didn't, but the speaker can't say anything about the event except that it was possible.

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