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So, today one of the topics boarded in the lessons I'm taking was the form

~かもしりません

Now, I'm thinking the しれません part comes from the potential form of 知る. That way, in the sentence, it would mean something like "can't know", giving the "guessing" property of the form.

Could someone confirm if this train of thought is correct? Also, I haven't found a meaning for the かも bit, so I would appreciate one if possible.

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  • By the use of the kanji, that shows that the しれません part is correct, but it shows the whole thing as just a word. Any tips on the かも part? – Jak Feb 16 at 18:26
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    Try jisho.org/search/かも ;) – Mathieu Bouville Feb 16 at 18:47
  • It should be clear at this point, but just to point it out: I wasn't aware of the 知れる verb, but as user3856370 pointed out, it's probably a better explanation. – Jak Feb 16 at 19:19
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I would think that しれません comes from the verb 知れる which means "to be known" rather than "to know".

The か part forms an embedded question e.g.

何時に始まる調べてください。
What times does it begin? Please check.
Please check what time it begins.

も is a tricky particle. I'm going to claim that it means 'even' in this context, but I think it is more subtle.

Putting it together we have

明日、雪が降るかもしれない。
Tommorow, will snow even fall? It is not known.
It may snow tomorrow.

I think it is best just to treat it as a set phrase though.

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    Note that the embedded question is actually the object of the following verb. I just wrote it as separate sentences for clarity. – user3856370 Feb 16 at 19:15
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In old Japanese か and も are the end particle, sometimes they are combined as かも(かな) and it admires the previous statement with or without a little irony.

Definitions of three end particles in old Japanese dictionary:

か to express wonder, inquirer and irony. ...かなぁ/・・・だなぁ/...だろうか e.g. いづれ

も (normal particle)to express add the same word 今も...; to suggest a quote or indirect meaning ...もまた; to express minimum ...でも、...せめて e.g. ほととぎす、一声鳴け(ほととぎすよ、一声で良いから鳴いて欲しい); (end particle) to exaggerate the word (normally)「かも」「しも」「とも」「ども」「やも」「もこそ」「もぞ」

かも か+も to express admiration and etc. e.g. 立ち別れまく惜しき宵かも(別れが惜しい夜であるなぁ)

(old)しらん=しらぬ (new)しれません perhaps so; both refer a subjective doubt/expectation.

All together (old/middle)かもしれぬ (new)かもしれない = "..., perhaps so in my opinion."

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