Do you know the difference between may vs might?
Many people don’t. They use them interchangeably, but that’s not always correct. May and might have different meanings and uses depending on the context.
In this article, you will learn how to use may and might properly and avoid common errors. You may find it easier than you think!
What May and Might Mean?
Both of them are modal auxiliary verbs. In a sentence, you use it to indicate permission, necessity, and probability.
However, there are subtle differences between those words. Sometimes, they have different levels of certainty or politeness. Sometimes, they have different meanings in the past or the present.
If we use them wrongly, we may confuse or offend other people. That’s why we need to learn how to use them correctly.
When to Use May?
We use may to express possibility or uncertainty in the present or future. Besides that, we use may to express permission or polite requests.
Use may when you are more confident or optimistic about something.
For example, we can say “Mom may be at home” to mean that there is a huge possibility that your mom is at home.
Use may when you want to be more polite or formal when asking for something or allowing something.
For example, we can say, “May I have some water?” meaning that we respectfully ask for water.
Use may when expressing a strong or sincere wish or hope for someone or something. You also use it to talk about something that is hypothetically possible.
For example, we can say “May you be happy” to mean that we really hope that you will be happy.
When to Use Might?
On the other hand, we use might to express hypothetical possibilities or uncertainty in the past. Furthermore, we use might to indicate possibility rather than permission.
Use might when you are unsure about something or when there is a small chance of something happening.
For example, we can say “The teacher might be late” to mean that there is a slight possibility that the teacher will be late.
Use might to express probability rather than permission.
For example, we can say “Diana might not join us tonight” to mean that there is a probability that Diana will not join us tonight.
Use might to express regret in the past, a hypothetical scenario that is unlikely to happen, or a conditional situation.
Check some examples below:
- Regret: “I might have done better if I had studied harder” means that I regret not studying harder in the past.
- Hypothetical scenario: “If I were rich, I might buy a yacht” means that buying a yacht is not a real or likely situation for me.
- Conditional: “You might get sick if you don’t wear a coat” means that getting sick is a possible outcome if you don’t wear a coat.
The Differences between May vs Might
So, to summarize what we learned earlier, “may” and “might” are different in three ways: how sure we are about something when we use them and whether we can use them to ask for permission.
Observe the following may vs might example:
Level of certainty:
- “I may go to the beach tomorrow.” (There’s a good chance that I will go.)
- “I might go to the beach tomorrow.” (It’s less certain that I will go.)
- “I may study abroad next year.” (Talking about a future possibility.)
- “I might have left my phone at the library.” (Talking about a past possibility.)
- “May I borrow your pencil? Yes, you may borrow my pencil.” (Asking for and giving permission.)
- “I might borrow your pencil later.” (Not asking for permission, just mentioning a possibility.)
Isn’t it easy to use ‘may’ and ‘might’ in English? Join us in the Fun English Course to learn more about English in such a fun and easy way.