May and might
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How to use May and Might in English ?
May and might are modal verbs. Might is the preterite of may and their use can be classified into two categories:
To express permission
We may use to ask politely:
- May I ask you a question?
One can also use may to grant permission:
- You may stay up late this evening.
May can also be used to formulate a prohibition:
- You may not smoke here.
Might only express a permission in reported speech with a subordinate:
- I asked her if I might borrow her car.
May is only used in the present context. The equivalent in past and future contexts is be allowed to (to be authorized to, to have the right to…)
- She wasn’t allowed to drink sodas.
- I hope that I’ll be allowed to watch TV tonight.
To express the hypothesis
We also use may to suggest a probability, an uncertainty or a possibility, when we are not sure of something:
- She may be jealous.
- You may be right but I’ll have to check.
With might, the speaker expresses a greater uncertainty than with may:
- He might not live here.
- It might not rain today.
⚠️ Do not confuse might + verb and might + be v-ing:
- He might play soccer. (in general)
- He might be playing soccer. (right now)
⚠️ Do not confuse can and may:
- This watch can be damaged by misuse. → This watch may be damaged if it is not used properly.
- This watch may be damaged by misuse. → This watch may be damaged due to misuse.