Uses of may and might! May and might are modal verbs. We mainly them to ask and give permission in a more formal style and to express possibility (significantly the chances of something happening). They have the following characteristics as other modal verbs.
1- May and might do not take -s when the subject is singular.
Example: She may come to my home tomorrow before she leaves. (Not She mays)
2- After may and might use the root form of the verb.
Example: She may be right. (Not She may to be)
3- We do not use ‘do’ with may and might to make negative and interrogative sentences.
You may not like it.
4- They do not have infinitive or participles.
Uses of May and Might
Affirmative: Subject + may/might + rest of the sentence
Negative: Subject + may not/ might not + rest of the sentence
Interrogative: may/might + Subject + rest of the sentence?
Negative interrogative: May + Subject + not/ might + Subject + not?
The following are common ways we use the modal verbs may and might.
Uses of May and Might (Ask for Permission)
Asking for permission to do something using may and might is more formal than can and could. May is more common and more polite to use for permission than might. Might is mostly used in indirect questions.
Uses of May and Might Permission Examples
- May I go now? (slightly more formal)
- Might I go now? (rather formal)
- May I reserve a seat for 8 pm?
- We wonder if we might have some more tea.
- They may replace one or two students, but no more than that.
- Might I go to the cinema this evening, brother?
- Might I have a quick discussion with you?
Use May to Refuse and Give Permission
We use may to give, refuse and forbid permission.
- You may park here. (means ‘I permit you to park.)
- She says I may go home. (She has permission to go home)
- Yes, they may have a cookie after lunch.
- You may take your computer along.
- You may all come into my room.
- You may not have a cookie. (deny permission)
- You may phone their office and reverse the front seat for yourself.
- May I sit next to you? No, you may not.
- Students may not park their bikes here.
Uses of May and Might (To Express Possibility)
In positive sentences (sentences that aren’t negative and interrogative), we use may and might to talk about the chance that something is true or to express the possibility of its happening. With might, we suggest that there is less possibility, i.e., it slightly increases the doubt.; otherwise, they have no difference in meaning.
Uses of May and Might Examples
- They may/might emigrate. (Perhaps they will emigrate.)
- There might be some curry left over for them on the table. (very weak certainty)
- The cause of his death may never be discovered.
- This may/might be my last movie before the exam.
- Where is mom? I don’t know. She may be in the kitchen.
- She may/might be waiting in the school. (Perhaps she is waiting)
- He may/might know.
- It is very cold outside. It might snow later on.
- Your answer may/might be true.
- He might come. If he comes, tell him to give me my documents this evening.
- The news may/might be heard by many of the people present there.
- Where is Ali? He might be in his room.
May and might are used to talk about possible happening in the future.
- You may/might find something unique. (possible future event)
- They haven’t come so far. They may/might come this evening. (perhaps they will come this evening)
- Do not leave the children alone along the seashore. They may/might fall into the sea.
We only use ‘might’ to describe a situation that is not real.
- If I knew Persian, I might speak it everywhere. (The situation describes here is unreal, so using may is not possible here)
Use may, may not, and might, might not when we are not sure about a prediction or whether something is possible or not.
- His mother may not want to talk to him. (It is possible)
- He might not want to meet us.
- The table might not break. (possible, but I’m not sure)
- His father might be looking for him now.
We use can in the related questions and negative sentences.
- Can this be correct?
- It cannot be correct.
Use Might for Requests and Suggestions
‘Might’ is used for making suggestions or requests or suggesting possibilities politely.
- She might like to try a little more sugar next time.
- You might check if the cable works properly.
- The meat tastes delicious, though you might add a bit more chili pepper.
Use May to Express Wishes and Hopes
We use may not might in formal expressions that express wishes and hopes, and we usually put it at the start of the sentence.
- May Allah be with you.
- May you live long!
- May you never lack!
- May we all meet again soon!
- May he rest in peace.
- May God bless you!
- May Allah grant you success.
- May God help us all.
- May your baby be a boy.
Use May for Making Offers
We can also use may like can to offer to do something for someone else. It is a more polite way of making offers.
- May I fill out one of those forms for you?
- May I take your shoes? Yes, thank you.
- May I be of any help in this work?
Use Might to Express Uncertainty
We use might with other phrases to express and emphasize uncertainty about something. We can also use may, which is more certain than might.
- I might take the car school. I am not sure.
- We don’t know. We might have more work.
- I may see her tomorrow if I’m not too busy.
The Difference Between May and Might
We use the modal verbs may and might to express the present or future. We do not use might as the past form of may. Might usually describe a situation that is less definite or probable, i.e., suggests a smaller chance. We use might (not may) when we think there is a possibility of something but not very likely.
- We may not attempt the test tomorrow. (perhaps a 50 or 60 % chance)
- We might come and meet you in Paris next month. (maybe a 30 % chance)
We do not usually use may or might to express that something was possible in the past but may and might followed by a perfect infinitive can express specific past ideas.
- We may go to Newcastle tomorrow.
- Do you think I might borrow a novel from the library?
- He’s late. he may/might have forgotten about the paper. (past possibility)
In reported speech may followed by a present reporting verb and might followed by a past reporting verb.
The teacher says that small children may find it difficult to read long stories.
- ‘What is she doing in the kitchen?’ ‘He said that I might cook something delicious.’
‘May’ isn’t used to ask whether the happening of something is possible or not, but the use of might is possible in this type of question.