Would it be incorrect to use “could” and “might” in the same sentence?

For example:

It could be that Joseph might come this afternoon.

Since could and might are both stating a possibility, it seems kind of redundant, but is this okay grammatically?

  • It sounds fine to me. :)
    – F.E.
    Jan 21 '14 at 22:31
  • 2
    Grammatically, it is impeccable. What you are talking about is semantics, not grammar. (And redundancy as such is neither grammatically nor semantically incorrect. It's merely redundant.)
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 21 '14 at 22:32
  • "Could it possibly be that Joseph might actually come this afternoon?"
    – F.E.
    Jan 22 '14 at 7:19
  • 2
    In some Southern US dialects, you could even use them as a combined modal: "Joseph might could come this afternoon".
    – tylerharms
    Jan 22 '14 at 8:00
  • @tylerharms That might could be, perhaps. However, it's not permitted in formal writing.
    – Kris
    Jan 22 '14 at 14:55

Grammar has no objection to such a sentence. It is the semantics that matter here, if any.

This structure may be used in a context where could owes itself to one reason unrelated to that of might. A little clarification follows.

He is so excited, what is it all about?
It could be that Joseph might come this afternoon.

The reason for his being excited is likely that … --> could be

Joseph is likely to come … --> might come

The two are unrelated. Changing either will change the meaning or at least lead to ambiguity.


It is awkward. Since could already indicates possibility, might should be replaced with will for a better sentence expressing possibility in the future.

It could be that Joseph will come this afternoon.
Or change it to read
Joseph might come this afternoon.
and simplify things.

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