Lesson 31 different meanings of “may/might/could + have + past participle”

Choose the correct answers:

What do the underlined verbs mean, blame or speculation?

Fact: The professor and the classmates did not know why Alex was absent for three days last week.

  1. Alex might have notified the professor.  (blame or speculation?)
  2. He could have been sick.  (blame or speculation?)
  3. Something may have happened to him.  (blame or speculation?)


The structure “may/might/could + have + past participle” is usually used in two past situations:

  1. Gently blame someone or express regret in oneself for a past situation/action
  2. Speculate with about 50% certainty what caused that past situation/action

The best approach is to understand the context, like the fact listed above.

  • In Sentence #1, gently blaming Alex for not notifying the professor.
  • In Sentence #2, speculating with 50% certainty that he was sick.
  • In Sentence #3, speculating with 50% certainty that something happened to him.



Alex’s story continues.

  1. As Alex’s friend, I may have called him last week.  (blame/regret or speculation?)
  2. He might  have sent me a text message. (blame or speculation?)
  3. He could have felt overwhelmed by the amount of homework and wanted a break.  (blame or speculation?)




blame; speculation; speculation

blame/regret; blame; speculation