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What is the difference among the following questions:

Do you know where I might find them?

vs

Do you know where I may find them?

vs

Do you know where I could find them?

vs

Do you know where I would find them?

vs

Do you know where I will find them?

vs

Do you know where I can find them?

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closed as not a real question by RegDwigнt Jan 7 '13 at 12:15

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

3 Answers

up vote -1 down vote accepted

Do you know where I might find them?

  • There is a very slim, least , chance that I have.

Do you know where I may find them?

  • I have better chance than , might , previous sentence.

Do you know where I could find them?

  • You are asking the listener where you had found them.

Do you know where I can find them?

  • Very likely that you will find them because it's within your ability limit.

Do you know where I will find them?

  • Most likely that the listener know the place where to find them.
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Do you know where I might find them?

and

Do you know where I may find them?

The difference here is that 'may' can also be construed as 'am allowed to' or 'have permission to', therefore might is more commonly used.

Could

and

Would

Are often used interchangeably, but generally 'could' implies ability to carry out a task whereas 'would' enquires as to the desire to carry out a task.

Could you sing me a song?

Means, if I asked, do you have the ability to sing me a song.

Would you sing me a song?

Implies you know they have the ability, and asks whether they are willing.

Do you know where I will find them?

and

Do you know where I can find them?

Will implies that the person being asked knows the location for certain. Can is similar to might and may in that it less sure.

'Can' and 'may' are often interchanged. Consequently, pedantic people may answer:

Can I go to the bathroom?

with

I'm sure you can, yes.

because the correct way of asking such a question is technically:

May I go to the bathroom?

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What is the difference among the following questions:

Do you know where I might find them? vs

*Context is so important in deciding what words mean.

Without a greater context, it hard to state for sure. I think that asked in a neutral fashion, ie. no emphasis on any word, this would signal a more deferential, a softer, more polite request. With an emphasis on 'might', it could show that though someone has stated they won't be found, the speaker asks for a place that is a small to smallest possibility*

Do you know where I may find them? vs

*I can't envision a context where 'may', in this zero context example, denotes permission, although I'm open to being shown one, or many. I think it's the choice of words that precludes a may of permission. If the speaker had asked,

"Do you know where I may look?", referring to for example, what portions of one's property the speaker may search, then a sense of permission would be easier to see.

'may' here expresses a higher degree of possibility than 'might' and it seems that there could be previous discussion and the person feels bolder in asking, like a policeman, who knows they have a right/duty to ask.*

Do you know where I could find them?

'could' equals possibility. It differs from may and might in that it isn't a scalable possibility. It, like 'can' just asks "is it possible ...". Using 'could' over 'can' illustrates a softer, more deferential approach but the meaning of the two is the same.

Do you know where I can find them?

See discussion under 'could'.

Do you know where I would find them? // Do you know where I will find them?

  • Both of these can be viewed as the speaker having some degree of certainty that the person being asked knows where the 'them' are. Using 'would', [as with the can/could distinction drawn] illustrates a softer, more deferential approach though the meaning is the same as when 'will' is used.*
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