In a local newspaper, I read the following three sentences in the same article. I wonder if they have any difference in meaning.

  1. The woman wanted to know if she was to wait there.

  2. The woman wanted to know if she should wait there.

  3. The woman wanted to know if she might wait there.

closed as off-topic by MetaEd, Edwin Ashworth, TrevorD, sumelic, ab2 Jul 31 '16 at 0:21

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  • Questions which lack results of research are out of scope. Interpretation requests are out of scope. For an introduction to the site, take the Tour. For help writing a good question, see How to Ask. – MetaEd Jul 30 '16 at 19:23

They do sound different to me. The first sentence can be read as "the woman wanted to know if she was supposed to wait here", as in following some kind of written or unwritten rule. The second sentence has a more personal component, wondering whether she should wait here or somewhere else. The third is a purely conditional and speaks of a possibility, a decision: she might wait here or she might not.

  • 1
    The third example also may imply that the woman wanted to know if it was permissible for her to wait there. From Merriam-Webster.com, "might: used in auxiliary function to express permission, liberty, probability, possibility." In this sense I could ask, "Might I wait here?" – Mark Hubbard Jul 30 '16 at 15:02
  • @Mark Hubbard That's the only possible sense here. The deontic usage. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 30 '16 at 22:13

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