“Hold on — you might be able to recover it.”

Your wife was working on a document on the computer at home. The program crashed, and she's upset because she thinks all of the work she did is lost. You think she might be able to get the file back again. You say this.

Hold on — you might be able to recover it.

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Hold on.

The phrase "hold on" means "wait". You tell someone to "hold on" when you want them to wait for a short time. In the example above, "Hold on" means to wait before doing anything on the computer, because the speaker thinks they might be able to fix it.

Since telling someone "Wait!" is very direct, you usually only say that when it's an emergency, when you're angry, or when you're pretending to be angry.

(someone) might (do something)

One way to rephrase "You might be able to" is "Maybe you will be able to". So "might" means "maybe" but the grammar of it is different:

  • "Maybe" comes at the beginning of the sentence, while "might" comes right before the verb ("be")
  • "Might" replaces the modal "will". "Maybe" is used along with "will" or other modals ("should", "can", etc.)
For native English speakers, it's more common to say "You might..." than "Maybe you will..." If you can learn to use "might" correctly, it will make your English sound much more natural.

be able to (do something)

"Be able to" means "can". But you can't use "can" with "might". So instead you say "might be able to".

You also use "be able to" when talking about things that you successfully did in the past:

I was able to contact Jesse, and he said he would send them to us right away.

Were you able to find out how much it costs?

And you use "be able to" with other modals like "should", "will", "may", etc."

He should be able to help you.

I won't be able to finish it until some time next week.

recover (something)

To "recover" something means to get it back after it has gotten lost, gotten destroyed, or been messed up. Things that people often talk about recovering include:

  • recover a memory
  • recover a lost object
  • recover the cost of an investment
  • recover use of a body part (legs, fingers, etc.) after an accident