May and Might – English Modal Verbs

MAY & MIGHT

May and Might are modal verbs.

They can normally be interchanged without a significant difference in meaning.

  • I might go
  • I may go

May and Might more or less have the same meaning. (We will see more about this later)

With modals verbs, there is only one form of them for every subject pronoun.

For example with the modal verb MIGHT. We say…

  • I might
  • You might
  • He might
  • She might
  • It might
  • We might
  • They might

The same happens with MAY … I may, you may, he may, she may, it may, we may, they may.

Just like the other modal verbs, there is never an S at the end of may or might:

  • She mights stay. (This is NOT CORRECT)
  • She might stay. (This is CORRECT)

After MIGHT or MAY we have the verb, or more specifically, the base form of the infinitive.

This means the infinitive without To. For example the infinitive is To Go so the base form is just the Go part.

Instead of To Study, only study. Instead of To speak, we only put Speak after the modal verbs MIGHT and MAY.

For example:

  • You might to go.

(This is NOT correct – we don’t use all of the infinitive – we need to remove the TO part)

So we say…

  • You might go. (This is correct)

Also:

  • She might knows.

(This IS NOT correct – we don’t conjugate the verb so no S is necessary – we need the base form of the infinitive)… so we say…

  • She might know. (This is correct)

Example Sentences using MAY and MIGHT

Some example sentences with May and Might are…

  • I might watch another episode.
  • You may bring a partner to our event.
  • He may have been
  • She might tell us what happened if we ask her.
  • It might rain this afternoon.
  • We may be invited but I’m not sure.
  • They might go to the beach this weekend.

When do we use MAY and MIGHT in English?

1. We can use May and Might – To express possibility

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

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

  • Take an umbrella, it might rain later. (This means there is a possibility that it will rain later)

You can also say… it may rain later.

  • I think she may win the singing competition …because her voice is amazing.
  • They might be late because of the bus strike.

2. We can use May To ASK FOR permission

Note: May sounds more polite than using Can or Could when asking for permission.

  • May I have some water please?
  • May I borrow your dictionary?
  • May I use the bathroom please?

It is best to use PLEASE in the question to make it more polite?

Note: In theory, Might can also be used to request permission but it sounds very formal and is rare.

3. We can also use May – To GIVE permission

We do NOT use Might to give permission.

  • You may open the window if you become hot.
  • You may take a brochure if you like.
  • You may leave the room once you have finished the test.

4. To NOT give permission

We can use May not to NOT give permission or to PROHIBIT someone from doing something.

  • You may not park your car in front of the gate.  (No, it is not permitted)
  • You may not leave the room without permission.
  • You may not take photos inside the museum. (It is prohibited)

5. 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.

6. MAY and Might are used to Speculate about past actions.

Here we are saying that something was possible in the past but we are not sure.

For this situation we use (May + have + the past participle)

  • Your comment may have offended some people.
  • She is not here. She might have gone to the market.
  • What was that noise outside? I think it may have been a cat.

With all of these examples, they were possible but we are not sure.

7. We can use MAY To express wishes

When expressing wishes, only May is used.

  • 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 Force be with you.

MAY & MIGHT Summary Chart

May and Might - English Modal Verbs - Uses of May and Might with Example Sentences

Lesson tags: May, Might, Modal Verbs, Permission, Possibility
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