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ESL Learning: May versus Might


May and might are words that have very similar meanings in English, and it might be hard to decide which of these words to use. But then again, after reading this blog, it may be a lot easier!

May: used to ask (or give) permission in a formal way


  • May I ask you a question?

  • Yes, you may!

  • May I have a raise?

May: to suggest that something is probable (will probably happen).


  • I see some dark clouds in the sky. It may rain this afternoon.

  • He loves basketball so much that he may continue practicing in the rain.

  • They have been saving up money, so they may go on a vacation during their break from work.


Remember that may often suggests something is probable to happen (or at least we have hope or faith that it will). Also, please note that May is the English name for the fifth month of the year on the Western (Gregorian) calendar, when it is used as a proper noun.

Might: used when an outcome is less probable, or probably will not happen


  • The weather reporter said it will snow, but I think that it might be hot later on today.

  • The team is not very good, but they might get lucky and qualify for the playoffs.

  • He drank so much beer that he might not remember his name.

Might: also used as the past tense form of may


  • Native Americans might have been in the Americas before the Bering Strait migration.

  • Bill Clinton might have been the best musician out of all of the American presidents: Here

Remember that English is a fluid language, meaning that it is always changing, but these are the official grammar rules for now. You may sometimes hear native English speakers say, “I may have been there before.” But according to current grammar rules, this is not correct.

Please note as well that might as a noun means strength. The noun might is used less often than the modal might in English. Some people say that eventually, may will replace might in English, and may is now used more often, especially in spoken English.

Are you ready to put your learning to the test? You might be! No, you may be!

I __________ go to the store later, but it’s so cold outside tonight! Maybe I will wait until tomorrow.

  1. may

  2. might

She _________ have an easy time finding a husband. She is very beautiful, and a good cook!

  1. may

  2. might

We _________ pay less money for phone calls now that we can Skype online for free.

  1. may

  2. might

Sir, it would be good to get some fresh air. __________ we continue this meeting outside in the garden?

  1. Might

  2. May

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By Joseph

ETO American English teacher


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