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The explosion might have been caused by a gas leak.

I think the sentence may be understood in two ways. First: the explosion was possibily caused by a gas leak even though it did not happen. Second: the explosion was possibily caused by a gas leak although you do not really know.

Am I right?

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    It has to be the first: an explosion which did not happen would not be referred to with the. – StoneyB Jan 23 '15 at 2:13
  • @StoneyB That would depend on whether the hypothetical explosion had already been mentioned. The plan crash might have been caused by an explosion. And the explosion might have been caused by a gas leak. No? – Araucaria Jan 31 '15 at 13:05
  • @Araucaria - But in that case you have an explosion which may have happened, not one which did not happen. Once you open a door onto a "possible world" in which there was an explosion, you have to pass through that door into that world to discuss the explosion's cause. – StoneyB Jan 31 '15 at 20:21
  • @StoneyB Not necessarily! For example if we know that the plane crash was caused by something different but were talking about the epistemic situation of the investigators afterwards and what they are doing or not doing we can say For all they know, the plan crash might have been caused by an explosion. And the explosion might have been caused by a gas leak. If we shot the plane down in the first place this is clearly counterfactual! – Araucaria Feb 1 '15 at 13:14
  • @Araucaria Ah, but in that case you are 'quoting' the investigators ... you have passed through another door into their world. – StoneyB Feb 1 '15 at 13:27
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In the statement:

The explosion might have been caused by a gas leak.

might used here is an auxiliary verb, part of the verb might have been caused. It does not affect the subject explosion.

So it is saying there was an explosion. There is a possibility it was caused by a gas leak, but the actual reason has not been stated yet.

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The comments are correct. To express hypothetical explosion, you would say

"THE gas leak might have caused AN explosion."

This means that there was a gas leak, but there wasn't an explosion. The other interpretation (that you know there was a gas leak but you don't know if there was an explosion) is highly implausible—if there had been an explosion, you'd probably know about it!

But you could remove any possible doubt by appending

", but luckily we found the leak and fixed it."

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