2

"Could" seems to talk about ability:

I could take all of next week off from work. (I have enough vacation days left).

Here, I have the ability to take the next week off. There is no suggestion that I think that I want to, or that I intend to. Perhaps I'm merely laying out my options, before I decide if I want to do it or not.

In contrast, "might" seems to talk about possibility:

It might rain tomorrow

and if the subject is human, it talks of intention:

I might take all of next week off from work.

Here, I'm not just saying that I'm able to take the next week off, but that I have some intention of actually doing it (but that I'm not 100% sure that I actually want to or not).

But in French, according to this website, both "could" and "might" are translated by using the verb "pouvoir".

Question:
1. Is this distinction between "could" and "might" possible to communicate, in French?

1

For "might" with the sense of intention, as in you're considering it, I think there are a lot of options:

Je pourrais peut-être poser la semaine prochaine.

Peut-être que j'aimerais poser la semaine prochaine.

Je considère poser la semaine prochaine.

Je crois peut-être poser la semaine prochaine.

Peut-être que je poserai la semaine prochaine.

Et si je pose la semaine prochaine.

For "could" as in you would be able to if you wanted, it's a little more limited:

Je pourrais poser la semaine prochaine.

Je serais libre de poser la semaine semaine.

I'm sure there are more minor variations for both, and no doubt some overlap as there is in English.

1

I think

I could take all of next week off from work. (I have enough vacation days left).

could be translated to "Je pourrais...". And

I might take all of next week off from work.

could be translated to "Je pourrais peut être...". But I don't think a one word translation exists in French to differentiate "could" and "might".

  • So if I understand you correctly, "Je pourrais..." (without the peut être) would always be understood as "I could.." and never "I might.."? – silph Jun 13 '18 at 12:52
  • It really depends on the context but in most cases yes – Tim Lepage Jun 13 '18 at 13:01
  • Agreed, no one-word match. Je pourrais seems great for could (or je peux) but might seems to engender more variation. Je devrais, peut-être que je vais, je considère – Luke Sawczak Jun 13 '18 at 13:25
  • @LukeSawczak: what do you mean by "might seems to endenger more variation"? Are you saying that "Je pourrais" gives a rise in feeling, in whoever hears the question, that .. there is some kind of variation meant.. or .. something? – silph Jun 13 '18 at 13:34
  • 1
    @silph I meant that could ~ pourrais seems like a good, close match, but that might has many more possible translations, at least in this context. – Luke Sawczak Jun 13 '18 at 15:01
1

IMO, I could is like "I can, if I want it" but I might is "I can, and I kinda want it".

As a french native, to translate I could take all of next week off from work. (I have enough vacation days left). I would say :

Je peux poser la semaine prochaine. (Il me reste assez de jours de congés)

This sentence indicates that I can, but that's it.

But, to translate I might take all of next week off from work. I would use conditional :

Je pourrais poser la semaine prochaine.

This sentence indicates that I am hesitating or at least thinking about it.

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