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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?

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  • It sounds fine to me. :)
    – F.E.
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 22:31
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    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
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 22:32
  • "Could it possibly be that Joseph might actually come this afternoon?"
    – F.E.
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 7:19
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    In some Southern US dialects, you could even use them as a combined modal: "Joseph might could come this afternoon".
    – tylerharms
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 8:00
  • @tylerharms That might could be, perhaps. However, it's not permitted in formal writing.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 14:55

2 Answers 2

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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.

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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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