English Lesson: “May” vs “Might”

“What’s the difference between ‘may’ and ‘might’? I always get them confused.” – Jose

This is a great question that demonstrates a huge difference in conversational English and academic English. The simple answer is this: most people are never going to use “may”.

“May” is just too polite. Everyone would rather say “Can I borrow $10?” instead of “May I borrow $10?”– even though the later is technically more correct.

Now the question becomes, “How do I use the word ‘might’?” And here’s where it gets confusing because the idea of “might” is the same as “maybe”. Let’s look at it like this:

  • I may be telling the truth.
  • I might be telling the truth.

Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. Who knows? I might be! These verb forms mean the same thing. Just be careful not to confuse “maybe” with “may be”. One if a single word. The other is two words.

When can we use the single word “maybe”? In response to a question you’re not sure about.

  • Q: Do you think he’ll come?
  • A: Maybe.

If you’re interested in learning more conversational English like this, connect with Jon to sign up for online private English coaching or face-to-face sessions in Boston. We’ll work on making you sound like a native speaker.

Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

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