When do you use maybe and when do you use may be?

This is a common mistake for students learning English (and sometimes native speakers too!).

The simplest explanation is:
Maybe = perhaps
May be = is possibly

  • Our boss was sick yesterday so he may be absent from work today. Maybe our meeting will be postponed until he comes back.
  • He may be creative or maybe he is just crazy.

A bit more detail…


Maybe is an adverb that means perhaps.

  • Maybe it will stop raining soon. = Perhaps it will stop raining soon.
  • A: I thought Suzy would be here by now. B: Maybe she forgot.


May is a modal verb which indicates possibility.

  • He may be lost = It is possible that he is lost
  • This may be the best website = This is possibly the best website

After may be we usually have an adjective, a noun or a verb (in ING form)

  • He may be crazy. (may be + adjective)
  • He may be a genius. (may be + article + noun)
  • He may be trying too hard. (may be + verb ING form)

Remember that May is similar to Might

  • He may be late = He might be late

Maybe you have a better explanation than this. 🙂

Summary Chart

Maybe or May be - What is the difference - English Grammar Lesson

Pin It on Pinterest