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He may have been waiting

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 4:35 pm
by JerrySmile
Hello:

How about this usage of "may" in the future?

By 5 o'clock tomorrow, he may have arrived here.
He may have been waiting for us for an hour by the time our train finally arrives.


Thanks.

He may have been waiting

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 5:06 pm
by Bobinwales
Why not?
He may have arrived here by 5 o'clock tomorrow, trips off the tongue more than your example, and in truth I would probably have said "could well have" instead of may, but I see no reason not to use it.

He may have been waiting

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 5:08 pm
by dalehileman
By 5 o'clock tomorrow, he may have arrived here.

Laverne, who is much smarter than I, says it's awkward, that colloqually it s/b "He may have arrived by...," while the "here" seems unnecessary unless there are a number of alternate destinations at which he might instead arrive

He may have been waiting for us for an hour by the time our train finally arrives.

I would delete the second "for"

...or even "for us for"

He may have been waiting

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:01 pm
by JerrySmile
Thank you both. I can sleep better:-)

He may have been waiting

Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:32 am
by Berale
Hmmm... Doesn't sound right to me. Bob's "could well have" sounds much better. I don't think it's correct to use "may" in this way, but it's too late at night to try and work out why.

He may have been waiting

Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 5:48 pm
by dalehileman
...though "could well have" is a bit snooty

"might have" is another colloqual you might consider

He may have been waiting

Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 6:51 pm
by Erik_Kowal
I disagree with Dale's perception of "could well have", which I don't think is at all snooty. Rather, it suggests that the speaker is fairly uncertain about how probable the circumstances are that he is positing.

In fact, I think the various ways of expressing the thought all correspond to different assessments of the probability of the event in question. From the least to the most confident assertion, in my opinion the scale ranges from "might have" through "could well have" to "may have", with "could well have" suggesting a fair bit of wiggle room.

Others may disagree.

Re: He may have been waiting

Posted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 9:17 pm
by jeffreys
MAY and MIGHT do not mean the same.
John may have killed someone last week = perhaps he did, perhaps he didn't. We don't know.
John might have killed someone last week = he could easily have done but for some reason he didn't.

Re: He may have been waiting

Posted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 9:26 pm
by Bobinwales
Sorry Jeffrey, I don't agree.

"John might have killed someone last week", can easily mean someone is dead, and it could be John wot dun it.
Correct typo

Re: He may have been waiting

Posted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 10:44 pm
by gdwdwrkr
If these were to be spoken, the voice could well make them assume their several possible meanings.
To dispute their written meanings without context is another path to THE END!

Re: He may have been waiting

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:18 pm
by Edwin F Ashworth
Either way, I think John should be brought in for questioning.

Re: He may have been waiting

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:46 pm
by Garanhir
Hi All,

He may have been waiting for us for an hour by the time our train finally arrives.

The editor in me experiences a degree of horripilation when I see such inelegant construction. I'd go with:

He may have waited an hour before our train arrives.

or even:

He may have to wait an hour for our train to arrive.

or, if I was feeling maximally minimalist:

He may have to wait an hour for our train.

I honestly don't see that the original offers anything more to the reader than the last version. (Of course, by five o'clock tomorrow, I may have had to revise my opinion according to whatever responses might have been engendered by this!)