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I have problem with using could in the future possibilities

for example:

They have the technology, but unless the government makes stricter laws, car companies ____ do it.

With which one should I fill the blank of..... Might not or Couldn't and why ?

Thank you :)

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    It depends on what you mean. If you mean it's possible that the companies won't do it without stricter laws, use might not. If you mean it's possible that the companies won't be able to do it without stricter laws, use couldn't. Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 23:30
  • The sense of futurity, which OP apparently desires to build into the sentence, remains lacking with either one. I would suggest may not if as @JohnLawler says "it's possible that the companies won't do it without stricter laws" or will not (or won't) be able to if that is what is meant. Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 23:35
  • The "sense of futurity" is generally satisfied by using a modal auxiliary on something that clearly isn't in the past or present. Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 23:37
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    You could also use will not there. Or can't. But I would hesitate to use couldn't. Just doesn't sound right.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 23:38
  • It may also be helpful to change "do it" to "use it", based solely on the provided sentence (additional context from a prior sentence may render this less than useful). You can "use" technology, but you can't "do" technology. With that, you can also say "won't" instead of "couldn't", as I get the impression that you're talking about laws failing to encourage the use of a given technology. In that case, the companies lack the incentive, not the capability, to use the technology.
    – Liesmith
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 16:58

1 Answer 1

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'Could' discusses fundamental possibility; whether or not the thing can be done.

'Might' discusses likelihood of the thing happening; whether or not the thing will be done.

'Could' discusses can and can't.

'Might' discusses will, might, and won't.

In your example it wouldn't be fundamentally impossible for the car companies to do the thing, but without sufficient incentive they might not do the thing.

Use might not or, if you're willing to speculate on the nature of car companies, use won't.

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