="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" viewBox="0 0 512 512">

Unit 8.1

Modals of Possibility – May


A modal verb is a type of auxiliary (helping) verb that has no meaning on its own but it modifies the main verb, changes its meaning and gives more details about action.

May is a type of auxiliary modal verb used to talk about the possibility for something to happen and also to ask for or give permission.

May has always the same form, even for the third person. We usually find this structure in its three forms:


The affirmative form of the verb may have this structure:
Subject + may + verb.

I/You may work
He/She/It may work
We/You/They may work


The negative form of the verb may has this structure:
Subject + may + not + verb.

I/You may not work
He/She/It may not work
We/You/They may not work


The interrogative form of the verb may has this structure:
May + subject + verb + …?

May I/you work …?
May he/she/it work …?
May we/you/they work …?


  1. Permission
    • You may take this plate.
    • She may answer the phone.
    • They may travel by plane.
  2.  Uncertainty/possibility
    • I’m afraid I may be late.
    • Susana may come to see you tomorrow.
    • There may be too many people at the post office.
  3. Express wish or hope
    • May the force be with you.
    • May you both be happy together.
    • May we have rain this year.


  • You may not answer the phone call!
  • She may not leave a message.
  • I’m afraid that we may not interview the director.


  • May I answer an important phone call?
  • May she leave you a message?
  • May we interview the director?

We use may in the affirmative form when we:

  1. Give permission;
  2. Are not sure about something;
  3. Express wish or hope.

We use may in the negative form when we prohibit something or to express uncertainty.

We use may in interrogative form when we want to make a polite request.

We use the modal verb may to talk about the possibility for something to happen and also to ask for or give permission. Negative form expresses prohibition or uncertainty and interrogative form is used for polite requests.

  • Affirmative: Subject + may + verb;
  • Negative: Subject + may + not + verb;
  • Interrogative: May + subject + verb + ?

For example:
Affirmative: “It may snow this winter.
Negative: “It may not snow this winter.
Interrogative: “May it snow this winter?

Let’s revise this content within the [Form] section. Take a look at the [Example] section that shows its use within a context.


Modals of Possibility - May Copyright © 2016 by My Language Skills. All Rights Reserved.