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The problem is this sentence:

It might not be adequate in some cases and worsen the results.

Is it correct or should I write "worsens the results"? If the effect of might not is propagated to worsen it is correct. Otherwise it should be worsens. But I don't know whether it does propagate or not.

Are there any rules for such sentences?

  • As it is, the sentence is correct. – Paola Jun 6 '12 at 20:44
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If you change to "worsens", then then "it might not" can't be applied to it, but it would still be valid, if read as "It might not be adequate, and it worsens the results".

As written, the "might not" doesn't necessarily extend to "worsen". It could be read as "It might not be adequate and therefore worsen the results". or "It might not be adequate in some cases and it might worsen the results."

To force "might" to apply to "worsen", I would say (which is not really forcing the same word to apply) :

It might not be adequate in some cases, and might worsen the results.

  • How should I force might (not might not) to be extended to worsen? – Shayan Jun 6 '12 at 20:51
  • Shouldn't your sentence be:It might not be adequate and therefore worsenS the results – Shayan Jun 6 '12 at 22:11
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    @Shayan: definitely not, read the answers again. And Jeff: I don't like mixing may and might like that: I regard it as a confusion of tenses, but YMMV. – Tim Lymington Jun 6 '12 at 22:13
  • Why? is might extended to worsen in this case? – Shayan Jun 6 '12 at 22:17
  • Point taken @TimLymington...I was trying to break the repetition there. – JeffSahol Jun 7 '12 at 0:00
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You could try It might not be adequate, in which case it would worsen the results, or It might be inadequate and worsen the results (I prefer the former). But your construction, though technically incorrect, is comprehensible and good enough for a scientific paper where data is more important than elegant wording.

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The "might" propagates automatically.

I parse the sentence as reading, before ellipsis:

it might not be adequate in some cases and might worsen the results,

since by context, the 'not' clearly doesn't propagate. If you don't want the "might" to propagate, you can repeat the subject:

It might not be adequate in some cases, and it worsens the results.

My feeling is that the sentence:

It might not be adequate in some cases and worsens the results,

is ungrammatical. Let's take a simpler sentence of the same form:

You can't have a tiger as a pet. It might be noisy and eats too much food.

To me this last sentence is clearly ungrammatical.

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I think it can go two ways depending on what one wants to say and the actual context.

i.e.

  1. It might not be adequate in some cases and it WORSENS the result.

  2. It might not be adequate in some cases and it MIGHT WORSEN the result.

After the speaker/ writer has made his choice, they could abbreviate to:

  1. It might not be adequate in some cases and WORSENS the result.

  2. It might not be adequate in some cases and WORSEN the result.

This is why I think with a bit of clarification in the Second Clause is better, whether it's the retention of the Subject and Helping Verb or just the Helping Verb.

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