Modals of Possibility – May

Verbs

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.

Affirmative

The Affirmative form of the verb May have this structure:
Subject + verb may* + verb.

SUBJECT MAY VERB
I may go
You may go
He may go
She may go
It may go
We may go
You may go
They may go

Negative

The Negative form of the verb May has this structure:
Subject + verb may* + not + verb.

PERSON MAY NEGATION VERB (infinitive)
I may not go
You may not go
He may not go
She may not go
It may not go
We may not go
You may not go
They may not go

Interrogative

The Interrogative form of the verb May has this structure:
Verb may*+ subject + verb + (?).

MAY PERSON VERB QUESTION MARK
May I go ?
May you go ?
May he go ?
May she go ?
May it go ?
May we go ?
May you go ?
May they go ?

*The form is always the same, even for the third person.

Affirmative

  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.

Negative

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

Interrogative

  • 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.

  • The structure for the Affirmative form of May is as follows:
    Subject + verb may* + verb (e.g. It may snow this winter.);
  • When we use May its Negative form we prohibit something or express uncertainty. The structure for the Negative form of May is as follows:
    Subject + verb may* + not + verb (e.g. It may not snow this winter.);
  • When we use May its Interrogative form we want to make a polite request or ask about the possibility of something happening. The structure for the Interrogative form of May is as follows:
    Verb May* + subject + verb + (?) (e.g. May it snow this winter?).

For example:
— “It may snow this winter.” = Using the Affirmative form we express that there’s the possibility for something to happen.
— “It may not snow this winter.” = Using the Negative form we express that an event is uncertain.
— “May it snow this winter?” = Using the Interrogative form we ask if something is possible to happen.

NOTE: *The form is always the same, even for the third person.

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