The words may and might are one of the most confusing words in the English Language. Moreover, it also confuses many writers as well regarding the correct use of it. Thus, they tend to use it interchangeably especially in speech. So, it there really a difference between may vs might? This is what we will clear up through this article so that you don’t have to use these incorrectly. By outlining the characteristics of these two words, we will help you recognize the use of both these terms. Further, this article will also cover their functions within the various sentences. This will help in learning about the grammar behind each word. Most importantly, the examples will make sure that they do not mix them up again.
For instance, if your friend is going on a vacation during the summer vacations and you ask them about it. What do you think will their response be? I may go to Paris or I might go to Paris? Hearing the two answers, you surely feel the difference in both the answers, right? When the person uses may, it shows that there is a higher possibility when we compare it to might. We also use these terms interchangeably, but we must not. They are different terms with different meaning and usage. Thus, we will go through what the difference between may vs might is.
Difference between May Vs Might
If we look at the grammatical difference between may and might, it is tense-based. May is the present tense whereas might is the past tense. It is rare to use them incorrectly in this context.
Incorrect: I thought I may go to the movies.
Correct: I think I may go to the movies or I thought I might go to the movies.
Moreover, the difference of using may vs might also lie in the degree of likelihood of something to occur. For instance, something that may happen has a higher likelihood of happening than something which might happen.
Further, politeness or formality also plays a role in this. For instance, you will say you may go to the party is there is a cash bar. Also, you might go to the part is there is an open bar.
An effective way of remembering the difference between these two terms is that if something will be a mighty stretch for one to make, as in the possibility of making it is low, then use might.
When/How to Use May
Although we tend to use may and might interchangeably popularly, we must not do so. There is a slight difference when we talk about the two in terms of possibility and probability.
We use may for expressing what is possible, factual or could be factual. For instance, She may lose her job, they may go on a trip, he may have a drink after lunch. It is a modal verb which we commonly use to express possibility. For instance, She may be at home or perhaps at work.
Further, we can also use to give or request permission, however, the use is becoming less common now. For instance, you may have another candy, may I call my mother?, may I use your phone? When we ask for permission, may is more common compared to might.
However, we must be careful when using both these terms to ask permission as you can seem ambiguous then. Let us take a look at the incorrect and correct use of may vs might to understand the difference:
Incorrect: Might I go to the wedding tonight?
Correct: May I go to the wedding tonight?
When/How to Use Might
As you know by now that might is the past tense of may, use it correctly. Even in the most confusing situations, you can make the right choice without any doubt by remembering it as a past tense of may.
For instance, she might have called earlier, but I was not home. Next, the thief might have not been caught, had you not called the police on time. Thus, you see that once you determine the tense of your sentence, you will be able to use it correctly.
If you can determine the tense of your sentence, you can easily choose between might or may. We use might for expressing anything that is hypothetical or remotely possible. For instance, if you hurry, you might get there on time or if I win the lottery, I might buy a Porsche.
Thus, you notice that might deal with circumstances which are speculative or did not take place. However, may deal with ones that are a possibility or could even be factual. Simply, remember that might suggests a lower possibility while may suggests a higher possibility.
For instance, in case of a very far-fetched thing, you must use might. Let us take a look at the incorrect and correct use of may vs might to understand the difference:
Incorrect: If I had shown up on time, I may have kept my job.
Correct: If I had shown up on time, I might have kept my job.
Examples of May – Using May in a Sentence
To understand the use of may correctly, it is important to take a look at some examples. The examples of using it in a sentence will help you to understand its uses better. Further, it will allow you to make accurate choices of words when it comes to may vs might:
- The new girl came up to me and asked shyly “May I sit with you?”.
- “May I have this dance?” asked the boy.
- Before entering the room, they asked: “May we come in?”.
- Watching them lose points continuously, I think they may have given up.
- We must prepare ourselves as they may send us any minute.
- Who knows, I may end up working for my father?
- “You may buy something for your mother if you wish,” said her husband.
- May I wait here until my father arrives?
- “You may choose any dress that you like best,” said the shopkeeper.
- The teacher assured his mother that while it may take some time, but he will surely catch on.
Examples of Might – Using Might in a Sentence
By taking a look at examples of might, we aim to clear all your confusions regarding the word. Further, it will also allow you to make the correct usage of the term in the future. Using might in a sentence is easy and if you know the tense of your sentence, then it just becomes easier.
- I think this might be a case of breaking and entering.
- If my father could see the way it might be possible, then it must be possible.
- This might be one of the most difficult decisions he would ever make.
- At this point, no one knows what the kidnapper might do.
- They might not look alike, but they are definitely siblings.
- Talking about her fears might help her overcome them.
- There is no point in lying now, she might as well tell the truth.
- Do you think Kenny might feel left out when the new baby comes?
- Looking at how they have handled my luggage, it might have done damage inside.
- If you would’ve told us earlier, we might have done something to help you out.