3

The following is taken from PEU1 339.8:

May/might have ... can sometimes refer to the present or future.

#1 I'll try phoning him, but he may have gone out by now.

#2 By the end of this year I might have saved some money.

For #2, I think it would create ambiguity without context:

It could refer to my expectation that I am likely to have saved some money by the end of this year. I think this is what it's intended to mean here.

But it could also stand for a hypothetical situation where it would have been possible for me to save some money by the end of this year if I hadn't spent a lot on my new Audi.

Is my understanding correct?

If my understanding is correct, then is it possible to substitute could have for might have with meaning unchanged?

#3 By the end of this year I could have saved some money.

Is #3 also ambiguous without context? It could refer to an attainable expectation or a possibilty that will not be able to come true.

Or, to put it another way, can could have be used to express factual possibility without time restraints just like might/may have in #1 and #2, both meaning "by the end of this year I will possibly have saved some money."?

1. PEU = Michael Swan's, Practical English Usage.

  • It's not about "will have" vs "could have". That's not what I'm asking here. As I said, without context it's ambiguous. @user3169 – Kinzle B Jul 3 '14 at 5:13
  • Take a gander: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/24463/… @user3169 – Kinzle B Jul 3 '14 at 5:47
  • OK I'll reconsider this one. – user3169 Jul 3 '14 at 5:49
  • I'm having difficulty with the usage of save, a word which is in itself ambiguous. To me, to save money means either (a) I save money on a purchase when I buy a TV for $349 instead of $449 (even though I might spend the $100 saved on something else) or (b) I keep some money, as in a bank. "Save your money, don't spend it." Whereas, for me, to save up money or to put away money or to stash away money means to accumulate money. Thus, one can save up some money by saving it rather than spending it. The ambiguity confounds the question, for me. – user6951 Jul 4 '14 at 15:34
  • In Economics, what you saved is used to consume or to invest. @CarSmack – Kinzle B Jul 4 '14 at 15:47
1

I do not think that #2 is ambiguous without context. It means the first thing that you suggested.

You could make that sentence mean the hypothetical situation that you mentioned, but that would require context. With no context, though, nobody would think it meant that.

The same is true of your sentence #3. Without context, it means simply that it is possible that when the year is over, you will have saved some money. You could add context, though, to change the meaning to your other interpretation.

  • Does #2 and #3 sound awkward to a native speaker? – Kinzle B Jul 3 '14 at 9:05
  • #2 is not awkward. #3 is perhaps a bit awkward but not horrible. – Daniel Jul 3 '14 at 9:15
  • @ZhanlongZheng I find #3 a little awkward too as a native speaker. Although, if I say: "By the end of the year I could have saved some money." It feels a little better, but theres still something funny feeling about the way the tenses are mixed. "I could save some money by the end of the/this year" feels much more natural, I find. – EyeOfTheHawks Jul 3 '14 at 16:24
  • The tenses are also mixed in "By the end of this year I might have saved some money." Why isn't that awkward? @EyeOfTheHawks – Kinzle B Jul 3 '14 at 16:32
  • I'm not sure. It just doesnt feel as odd as 'could' does. I'd like to hear @Daniel take on this. – EyeOfTheHawks Jul 3 '14 at 16:35

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