Unit 7.1

May and Might: Modals of Possibility


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Introduction

The verbs may/might belong to the group of modal auxiliary verbs.

They are used to talk about the possibility of something happening.

Form

May and might have the same structure and they have three forms: affirmative, negative and interrogative.

Affirmative

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

Negative

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

Interrogative

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

Example

Affirmative:

  1. may go to the nature park as I have tickets.
  2. You might want to see the crocodile before we leave the zoo.
  3. If you gain more experience, you may come diving with us.

Negative:

  1. I may not be able to help you. 
  2. You may not want to go in this area, it’s dangerous.
  3. If you don’t train more, you might not be able to take part in the marathon.

Interrogative:

  1. May I join you for coffee?
  2. May I give you some advice?
  3. May I come if it’s not too late?

Use

 We use may and might in the same way most of the time, but there are some differences between them.

  1.  We use them to express uncertainty/possibility:
    we use may when something is more possible and likely to happen;
    we use might when something has a remote possibility to happen.
  2. We use them to give suggestions:
    we use may and might the same way we do in uncertainity/possibility.
  3. We use them in conditionals, in the main clause:
    in the first conditional, we can use both may and might;
    in the second and third conditional, we can only use might.

Summary

The modals may and might both express possibility. However, may is used when there is a higher possibility for something to happen.

The structures are:

  • may: we start with the subject followed by may and a verb.
  • might: we start with the subject followed by might and a verb.

For example:
— “You may want to use this path, it’s less steep.” = There is a higher possibility that you choose this path.
— “I might want to use that path if I’m ready on time.” = There is a possibility that I might go, but it depends on the time I’m ready.
— “If I’m ready on time, I may/Might use that path.”If I was ready on time, I might use that path.” / If I had been ready on time, I might have used that path.” = We can also use mayand mightin the first, second and third conditional instead of will and would.

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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