What does might mean?

I thought I knew what ‘might’ means, but I could be wrong! This week the UK has been experiencing a huge political row about whether the Prime Minister’s chief advisor broke lockdown rules when he drove 260 miles to stay at another property, and then another 60 miles to ‘test his eyes’ for the long drive home!

We were on tenterhooks on Thursday to hear whether or not the police thought he had broken the rules, and then they issued a statement saying that there ‘might have been a minor breach‘ of the regulations. I noticed some lovely hedging language in the police statement:

Durham constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR [automatic number plate recognition], witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing. 

Had a Durham constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. 

I was surprised at the use of might by the police as I thought it was obvious he had broken the rules, especially on the side trip to ‘test his eyes’. Then a lawyer commented that it is not up to the police to judge whether or not he is actually guilty of breaking rules – that would be down to a court decide. But in saying might it meant there was enough evidence of rule breaking for them to take the case to court if they wanted to do so. So in this case might means enough evidence to believe something and I didn’t know that before!

You can read my full article on hedging language here. Stay safe all!