Unit 8.2

May: Modals of Possibility



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 the action.

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


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


Its structure, in the affirmative form, is:
Subject + may + verb + …

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


Its structure, in the negative form, is:
Subject + may + not + verb + …

Subject may + not Verb (infinitive)
I/You may not work
He/She/It may not work
We/You/They may not work


Its structure, in the interrogative form, is:
May + subject + verb + …?

May Subject Verb Question
May I/you work ?
May he/she/it work ?
May we/you/they work ?



  • I may come to see you tomorrow.
  • You may take your dog with you. 
  • May you both be happy together.


  • 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 go to the restroom?
  • May you do this for me?
  • May we use your phone?


We use may in the affirmative form when we:

  • Are not sure about something;
  • Give or ask for permission;
  • Express wish or hope.

We use may in the negative form when we refuse a permission or express prohibition or uncertainty.

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


The modal verb may expresses permission, possibility for something to happen, wishes or hopes. The negative form is used to express prohibition, uncertainty or to refuse a permission and the interrogative form expresses polite requests.

We can use it in its different forms:

  • Affirmative: We start with the subject followed by may and the verb.
  • Negative: We start with the subject followed by may not and the verb.
  • Interrogative: We start with may followed by the subject and the verb (the sentence ends with a question mark).

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.

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