In the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston and Pullum, the authors write:

A remote conditional must have a modal auxiliary as the apodosis verb (usually would, should, could, or might) and a modal preterite or irrealis were in the protasis. (p.739)

A remote conditional is a conditional sentence using past or past perfect subjunctive mood.

I'm wondering if "might" can be used in the protasis of a remote conditional. I could find examples of remote conditionals whose protases use "would, should, or could", but could not find an example using "might" in the protasis.

1 Answer 1


Yes they can. Consider:

  • If he might have escaped a fine, he would have accepted the caution

  • If there might have been snow, they would have agreed to go to the mountains.

  • It would have been worth the effort, if it might have had any effect.

  • If the hephalumps might have reason to do so, they'd eat all the unicorn's artichokes.

  • @ivanhoescott All of those examples have the form of "might" + bare infinitival. None of them have a present perfect in them.
    – F.E.
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 1:35
  • @F.E. Are you saying that "have" in the main clause is bare infinitive in all those examples? Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 3:08
  • @ivanhoescott In all of them, yes. (According to the 2002 CGEL. See page 107: The central modal auxiliaries take bare infinitival complements -- and no other kind of complement.) The head verb "might" carries the primary tense (present tense vs past tense). In these types of constructions, the verb "have" is a plain form, and so, has no primary tense (notice that there can be no "might had" versions).
    – F.E.
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 3:16
  • @F.E. In all of the examples except the last one, is "have" in the main clause not an auxiliary verb? Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 3:52
  • @F.E. I'm asking. Is it an auxiliary verb? I've never heard that an auxiliary verb can be bare infinitive. Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:54

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