Archive for February 28, 2010

grammatical expression: might as well

greene might as well_thumb[7]

Today is a rainy Sunday here in Tokyo. I’d like to write about an expression English speakers use all the time: might as well. Even though it’s commonly used in English, I’ve never seen it taught in an English textbook. Anyway, we have two ways of using “might as well” in English:

1. It can be used when you want to say that there is no GOOD reason NOT to do something. For example:

It’s almost time to go home and you’ve finished all your work, so you might as well go home now.

In this example, the boss is saying that there is not a good reason for the employee to stay because it’s almost time to leave anyway, and he or she has no more work to do for that day. IF it were still early or IF there were more work to be done, then THAT would be a good reason not to go home now. However, because the work is done and it’s late, there’s no good reason for him or her to stay.

Another example of this could be at a restaurant:

A: You ordered spahetti with cream sauce, didn’t you? They gave you spaghetti with tomato sauce.

B: Yes, I know. But I like tomato sauce too and we don’t have much time, so I might as well eat it.

In this situation, IF the person had more time to change the order or IF he or she didn’t like tomato sauce, then THAT would be a good reason not to eat it. However, he or she DOESN’T have a lot of time and DOES like tomato sauce, so there is no good reason not to eat it.

2. We can use might as well to say that two things, people or situations are so similar that they could be considered to be the same. For example:

Daisuke can speak English so well, he might as well be an English native speaker.

My apartment is so hot, I might as well be living in hell!

The car I want is $20,000 but I have no money now, so it might as well be $20,000,000.

In the first example, I’m saying that there is almost no difference between Daisuke’s ability to speak English and a native English speaker’s ability.

In the second example, I’m saying the temperature in my apartment is almost the same as the temperature in hell. This is obviously an exaggeration and would be considered a joke.

In the third example, I’m saying that the price of the car is not important. I couldn’t buy it if it were very expensive ($20,000,000) or even at a cheaper price ($20,000) because I have no money.

So, this is how we use this expression “might as well”. As I mentioned before, it’s very commonly used by English speakers but very seldom taught. I hope this is helpful to people.

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