English Grammar

Difference between may and might with examples

Difference between “may” and “might”

When we learn English it is not always easy to understand the difference between “may” and “might” . In fact, for many students of the language this aspect remains pending when they begin to know the Modal Verbs.

The difference between “may” and “might” is so subtle that on many occasions they are used interchangeably without fully understanding the nuances of each. However, in this lesson we clarify the difference between these two words . You will also learn when to use them according to what you want to express .

Modal verbs: “may” and “might”

Before starting with the differences between “may” and “might”, it is convenient to remember that these two words are part of the modal verbs in English. This type of verb only works as an auxiliary, that is, it accompanies another verb and conditions it .

“May” and “might” are used to talk about something that may or could happen, but which there is no certainty that will happen.

Examples:

  • Tom may come to eat with you.
  • She might call him tomorrow.

They also serve to make requests in a respectful and friendly way , as you can see in the following examples:

  • May I have a hot dog?
  • Might I interrupt you, teacher?

Grammatical structure of modal verbs

The modal verb in the affirmative sentence goes before the main verb , which is placed in its base form (infinitive without the “to”).

  • It may / might rain

The negative form is formed by including the negative particle “not”

  • It may / might not rain today.

For the interrogative sentence , the modal verb always occupies the first place of the sentence.

  • May / might it rain today?

What is the difference between may and might?

The difference between “may” and “might” is very subtle and hard to remember when you start speaking or writing in English. Let’s see the meaning of each of them so that you better understand how they differ.

may

It serves to ask permission in a kind and polite way :

It is used to indicate slight possibility in present or future .

  • may have lost my phone.
  • She may go to the shop again.

Combined with “well”, it allows contrasting an external point of view with a personal point of view.

  • Cats may well be great pets , but I’m not getting one.

To request information or make requests :

  • May I borrow your pencil?

It also serves to express good wishes to someone:

  • May your days be filled with blessings.

Might

It is used when there is less possibility of doing something . Some of the uses of “might” coincide with “may”, albeit with some slight nuances. The construction of the grammatical structure remains the same as we have already explained previously.

It is used to ask for permission , but it is less common than “may”:

  • Might I ask your name? – Could you tell me your name?

When it indicates possibility , it is more remote and less likely than “may”:

  • I don’t think he’ll come, but you never know, he might . – I think it will not come, but you never know, maybe it will.

It serves to suggest in formal contexts:

  • She might like to try a red wine.

To request information or make requests in a more formal way than “may”:

  • Might I speak to Mrs Ana for a moment? –

Also, “might” is the past tense of “may . ” If you want to construct sentences in any of the past tenses, you will always use “might” and in no case “may”. Also, it is used to pass the verb from direct to reported speech.

  • He said he might go to the school that day.

When you talk about a possibility in the past that didn’t actually happen , then use “might have”:

  • She Said I felt good, but she Might Have Been

If we want to express disapproval or criticism , we can use might have + past participle verb:

  • He might have cleaned his room before his parents arrived.
  • You might have told her you weren’t coming.

If we are talking about something hypothetical and conditional , it is better to use “might” instead of “may”:

  • If I were, she, I might consult my boss about that first.

Only “might” can be used to express circumstances that are no longer possible :

  • If I were taller, I might be a top model .

Summary on the use and difference between “may” and “might”

As you can see, the difference between “may” and “might” is not so clear. In general terms, it can be stated that:

  • They both have more or less the same meaning (can / could).
  • However, its main difference is that “might” sounds a bit more distant and conveys less probability than “may.”
  • On the other hand, “may” is a polite, empathetic and kind way of asking for something, while “might” is not as common and is less close.

The best way to learn to use these modal verbs is to have regular conversations with native speakers or people who are fluent in the language. So you can see how they introduce both forms in daily life. In any case, if you find yourself in a bind and not sure which one to use, you can always go for “may” without making a serious mistakeDifference between “may” and “might”

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