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May - Might


May and Might are modal verbs. They can normally be interchanged without a significant difference in meaning however Might often implies a smaller chance of something happening (when expressing possibility).

May and Might

1. To express (future) possibility

There is a chance that something is true or that there is a possibility of something happening.

Note: Might is used more frequently than May in spoken English.

  • It might rain later (= it is possible that it will rain)
  • might go to the movies tonight. (Though I'm not sure)
  • I wouldn't talk to Tim right now. He may still be angry after his team lost.
  • He's very good, in fact, I think he may win the competition.
  • She might be late because of the public transport strike.

2. To give permission

  • You may leave the table once you have finished your meal.
  • You may take only one brochure.
  • If you have finished the exam, you may leave the room.

May not can be used to NOT give permission or to prohibit someone from doing something.

  • You may not park your car in front of the gate.
  • You may not take more than one brochure.

3. To ask for permission

Note: Can is used more frequently than May in spoken English though May sounds more polite.

  • May I sit next to you?
  • May I borrow your pen?
  • May I use your bathroom please?

Note: Might could also be used to request permission but it sounds very old and is not common.

4. May: to talk about typical occurrences

May is used in academic (or scientific) language to refer to things that typically happen in certain situations.

  • Drivers may feel tired if they do not take a break every 2 hours.
  • Adults may find it difficult to sleep if they use technology before going to bed.
  • These tablets may produce serious side effects if not taken in the correct dosage.

5. Speculate about past actions (May + have + past participle)

  • She is late. I think she may have missed her plane.
  • It may have already been broken before you bought it.
  • What was that noise? It may have been a dog outside our window.

6. To express wishes

  • May you both live a long and happy life together.
  • May the New Year bring you love and happiness.
  • May all your wishes come true.
  • May the odds be ever in your favor.
  • May the Force be with you. :)

May as well - Might as well

These are expressions can be used to suggest that you will do something because there is nothing better or more interesting to do.

  • There is nothing on TV. I might as well go to bed.
  • (At the stadium) Our team is losing by 50 points. We may as well go home because they're not going to win.

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