May vs. Might: What's the Difference?
"May" suggests a higher possibility or permission, "Might" implies a lower possibility or hypotheticals. Both indicate uncertainty.
"May" often indicates a greater likelihood of something happening, while "Might" is used for a significantly lesser chance or a hypothetical situation. Both words, however, communicate a sense of uncertainty.
When it comes to expressing permission, "May" is the more traditional and formal choice, whereas "Might" is rarely used in this context. Both can denote possibility, but "May" is more commonly used for permissions.
In terms of grammatical mood, "May" is used in the indicative mood to imply a real possibility, while "Might" is used in the subjunctive mood for unreal or hypothetical situations. Both help to set the mood of a sentence.
"May" and "Might" are both modal verbs in English, but "May" is often used in more formal contexts, while "Might" is seen as more informal and speculative. Both, however, are central to expressing degrees of uncertainty.
"May" has a present or future focus, suggesting something that's possible now or later, whereas "Might" has a past implication, often indicating a missed opportunity or hypothetical. Both offer temporal nuances to a sentence.
Less formal, more speculative
Present or future focus
Often used for past or hypotheticals
May and Might Definitions
Indicates a wish or a hope.
May you have a happy birthday!
Used as the past tense of "may" in indirect speech.
She said she might come by later.
With more practice, you may master the piano.
Expresses annoyance or emphasis in a question.
How might one solve this issue?
He may be strong, but he lacks endurance.
Indicates a lower possibility.
It might snow on the weekend.
A hawthorn or its blossoms.
Suggests a hypothetical situation.
If I had studied, I might have passed the test.
The fifth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar. See Table at calendar.
Implies a polite suggestion or modesty.
You might want to reconsider your decision.
The springtime of life; youth.
Great power or force, as of a nation or army.
The celebration of May Day.
Push with all your might!.
To be strong; to have power (over).
Power, strength, force or influence held by a person or group.
To be able; can.
(uncountable) Physical strength or force.
He pushed with all his might, but still it would not move.
To be able to go.
(uncountable) The ability to do something.
To have permission to, be allowed. Used in granting permission and in questions to make polite requests.
You may smoke outside;
May I sit there?
(obsolete) Mighty; powerful.
Expressing a present possibility; possibly.
He may be lying;
Schrödinger's cat may or may not be in the box
Expressing a wish (with present subjunctive effect).
May you win;
May the weather be sunny
(auxiliary) Used to indicate conditional or possible actions.
I might go to the party, but I haven't decided yet.
Used in modesty, courtesy, or concession, or to soften a question or remark.
(auxiliary) may Used to indicate permission in past tense.
He asked me if he might go to the party, but I haven't decided yet.
To gather may, or flowers in general.
(auxiliary) may Used to indicate possibility in past tense.
I thought that I might go the next day.
To celebrate May Day.
Used to indicate a desired past action that was not done.
Hey man, you might have warned me about the thunderstorm.
The hawthorn bush or its blossoms.
(auxiliary) Even though.
I might be in a wheelchair, but I still want to be treated as a lady.
(archaic) A maiden.
(auxiliary) Used in polite requests for permission
Might I take the last biscuit?
An auxiliary verb qualifying the meaning of another verb,
How may a man, said he, with idle speech,Be won to spoil the castle of his health!
For what he [the king] may do is of two kinds; what he may do as just, and what he may do as possible.
For of all sad words of tongue or penThe saddest are these: "It might have been."
Used to express certainty.
Yeah, I think we might need something a bit sturdier.
Liberty; permission; allowance.
Thou mayst be no longer steward.
Force or power of any kind, whether of body or mind; energy or intensity of purpose, feeling, or action; means or resources to effect an object; strength; force; power; ability; capacity.
What so strong,But wanting rest, will also want of might?
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Contingency or liability; possibility or probability.
Though what he learns he speaks, and may advanceSome general maxims, or be right by chance.
Modesty, courtesy, or concession, or a desire to soften a question or remark.
How old may Phillis be, you ask.
Desire or wish, as in prayer, imprecation, benediction, and the like.
The fifth month of the year, containing thirty-one days.
The early part or springtime of life.
His May of youth, and bloom of lustihood.
The flowers of the hawthorn; - so called from their time of blossoming; also, the hawthorn.
The palm and may make country houses gay.
Plumes that mocked the may.
The merrymaking of May Day.
The month following April and preceding June
Thorny Eurasian shrub of small tree having dense clusters of white to scarlet flowers followed by deep red berries; established as an escape in eastern North America
It may rain tomorrow.
Used to ask for permission.
May I borrow your book?
Can "may" and "might" be used interchangeably?
Often yes, but "may" suggests higher likelihood or formality.
Is "may" more formal than "might"?
Yes, "may" is traditionally more formal.
Can "may" express a wish?
Yes, e.g., "May you live happily!"
Does "might" suggest hypotheticals?
Yes, it's often used for hypothetical situations.
Can "might" be used for permission?
Rarely, "may" is standard for granting or asking permission.
Does "might" imply a lesser chance than "may"?
Yes, it typically suggests a lower possibility.
Do "may" and "might" have different grammatical moods?
Yes, "may" is indicative, and "might" is subjunctive.
Is "might" used for polite suggestions?
Yes, it softens the tone of suggestions.
Are there exceptions in using "may" and "might"?
Usage can vary based on context and dialect.
Can "might" express annoyance?
Yes, in rhetorical questions for emphasis.
Is "may" used for current possibilities?
Yes, it's for present or future possibilities.
Does "might" imply missed opportunities?
Often, especially in the context of past events.
Is "might" past tense?
It's used as past tense of "may" in indirect speech.
Can "may" suggest a concession?
Yes, as in "He may be fast, but..."
Do "may" and "might" have the same origin?
They both stem from Old English.
How does time affect "may" vs "might"?
"May" often has a present/future focus; "might" can imply past/hypotheticals.
Are "may" and "might" modal verbs?
Yes, both are modals indicating possibility.
Can "may" deny permission?
Yes, as in "You may not enter."
Can "might" be used for future possibilities?
Less commonly, but it's possible in conjectures.
Is "may" ever used in the subjunctive mood?
Rarely, it's typically indicative.
Written bySawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited bySumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.