Harry had almost forgotten that the exam results were still to come, but come they did. To their great surprise, both he and Ron passed with good marks; Hermione, of course, had the best grades of the first years. Even Neville scraped through, his good Herbology mark making up for his abysmal Potions one. They had hoped that Goyle, who was almost as stupid as he was mean, might be thrown out, but he had passed, too. It was a shame, but as Ron said, you couldn’t have everything in life. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

There is the word hoped, having me stray into think that might might be used expressing a hope. But there’s no entry for this type of examples in OALD and Merriam-Webster’s. They are only used with inversions of subject-auxiliary. Does the ‘might’ not express a hope; does it express a possibility?

1 Answer 1


"Might" indicates a possibility, something that could happen in the future, or that could have happened in the past, but which is not a certainty. In this case, there was a possibility that Goyle would fail his exams and be kicked out of school.

You can use "might" for both positive and negative possibilities. "I might win the contest", or "I might lost the contest". In this case, Harry saw the possibility of Goyle failing his exams as positive, and so he "hoped" it would happen, but it did not. (Presumably Goyle would have different hopes in the matter.) Of itself, the word "might" does not imply good or bad, just uncertainty. The context may indicate one or the other. Either explicitly, like here, where the "hoped" clearly indicates that Harry sees this as a positive possibility. Or implicitly, like if you wrote, "Oh, I thought, Sally might say yes, she might! It could happen, couldn't it?" I think that pretty clearly indicates that I see the possibility as positive, without explicitly saying so.

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