May and might 1

Learn and practise the use of may and might.

AStudy this example situation:

Where’s Ben?
– He may be in his office. (= perhaps he is in his office)
– He might be having lunch. (= perhaps he is having lunch)
– Ask Kate. She might know. (= perhaps she knows)

We use may or might to say that something is possible. You can use may or might:

  • It may be true. or It might be true. (= perhaps it is true)
  • She might know. or She may know.

The negative forms are may not and might not:

  • It may not be true. (= perhaps it isn’t true)
  • She might not know. (= perhaps she doesn’t know)

may might

Note the difference between may be (2 words) and maybe (1 word):

  • It may be true. (may + verb)
  • ‘Is it true?’ ‘Maybe. I’m not sure.’ (maybe = it’s possible, perhaps)
B For the past we use may have … or might have … :

  • a: I wonder why Kate didn’t answer her phone.
    b: She may have been asleep. (= perhaps she was asleep)
  • a: I can’t find my phone anywhere.
    b: You might have left it at work. (= perhaps you left it at work)
  • a: Why wasn’t Amy at the meeting yesterday?
    b: She might not have known about it. (= perhaps she didn’t know)
  • a: I wonder why David was in such a bad mood yesterday.
    b: He may not have been feeling well. (= perhaps he wasn’t feeling well)

may might

C could is similar to may and might:

  • It’s a strange story, but it could be true. (= it is possible that it’s true)
    You could have left your phone at work. (= it’s possible that you left it there)

But couldn’t (negative) is different from may not and might not. Compare:

  • Sarah couldn’t have received my message. Otherwise she would have replied. (= it is not possible that she got my message)
  • Why hasn’t Sarah replied to my message? I suppose she might not have received it. (= it’s possible that she didn’t receive it – perhaps she did, perhaps she didn’t)