May and might what is the difference?
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May and might what is the difference?
INDEX OF CONTENTS
- May and might when expressing possibility
- Might is the past tense of may
- Can we use might / may have interchangeably?
- May and might when asking permission
- In summary
The two words may (pueden) and might (pueden) are often confusing in English, and many writers are not sure when to use one or the other. Many people use them interchangeably, especially when they are speaking, but is there really no difference between the two words?
Today we propose to clear up any confusion between these two words and to raise the unique characteristics of each one of them. We’ll cover its functions within the sentence, the grammar behind each word, and we’ll put examples so you never mix them up again.
May and Might in expressing the possibility
In popular usage and speech, may and might are used interchangeably when referring to possibility and probability, but there is a slight difference between the two.
May is used to express what is possible, factual, or could be factual. For example:
- He may lose his job. (Puede perder su trabajo).
- We may go on vacation. (Podemos irnos de vacaciones).
- I may have dessert after dinner. (Puedo comer postre después de la cena).
How do I use may and might within a sentence?
May is used to express what is hypothetical or remotely possible . For example:
- If you hurry, you might get there on time (Si se da prisa, es posible que llegue a tiempo).
- If I had shown up on time, I might have kept my job. (Si hubiera llegado a tiempo, podría haber mantenido mi trabajo).
- If I win the lottery, I might buy a Ferrari. (Si gano la lotería, podría comprar un Ferrari)
We immediately realize that it can be about situations that are speculative or that in reality did not happen , that is, hypothetical, while it can deal with situations that are possible or could be factual.
An easy way to express / remember this difference is that it might suggest a lower probability than you can. If something is very unlikely, you probably want to use might. You could say that power is for very unlikely things.
Might is May’s past tense
The second distinction, which is the more important of the two between these two words, is that might is the past tense of may. In most confusing situations, you can easily make the right decision by remembering this fact. For example:
- He might have called earlier, but I was not home. (Past tense) (Podría haber llamado antes, pero yo no estaba en casa. (Pasado))
- The criminal might not have been caught, had you not sounded the alarm. (Past tense) (El criminal podría no haber sido capturado, si no hubiera dado la alarma. (Pasado))
- I may go to the movies tonight. (Present tense) (Puede que vaya al cine esta noche. (Tiempo presente)
If you can determine the time of his sentence , you can easily choose between might or may.
Can we use Might / May Have interchangeably?
Not a few say that might have and may have can be used interchangeably, but this is often a bad idea . May have should not be used in the past tense.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary’s 2012 Usage Panel survey, the vast majority of experts disagree with the use they might have in the same contexts. AHD provided their panel with the following two sentences,
- If John Lennon had not been shot, the Beatles might have gotten back together. (Si John Lennon no hubiera recibido un disparo, los Beatles podrían haber vuelto a estar juntos).
- If John Lennon had not been shot, the Beatles may have gotten back together. (Si John Lennon no hubiera recibido un disparo, los Beatles podrían haber vuelto a estar juntos).
In the survey , 97 percent of the usage panelists found the first sentence acceptable, while only 32 percent found the second sentence acceptable.
Far from being a few grammar-loving pedantic few, most experts see this distinction as necessary , and if you’re writing for any kind of professional audience, you’ll want to make sure you keep these two words separate.
When asking for permission
- You may have another piece of cake.(Puede tener otro pedazo de pastel)
- May I go to the restroom? (¿Puedo ir al baño?)
- Might I ask when the movie starts? (¿Puedo preguntar cuándo comienza la película?)
- Might I ask for a favor? (¿Puedo pedir un favor?)
When asking permission, may is much more common than might.
While both words can be used to ask for permission, if you’re not careful, they can create ambiguity. For example, if you asked the question:
- May I go to the movies tonight? (¿Puedo ir al cine esta noche?)
You want to be clear when you go to tell your friends whether or not they received your permission. For example,
- I may not go to the movies tonight. (Puede que no vaya al cine esta noche.)
When you say this , do you mean “I’m not allowed to go to the movies tonight” or do you mean “I may not go to the movies tonight”? ( I might not go to the movies tonight .)
In situations like this, it is best to use ” might “ to avoid any confusion that may arise.
- (I might not go to the movies tonight). Puede que no vaya al cine esta noche.
- It is important to keep the might and may separate so that you can maintain clarity in your writing.
- It could carry less probability and applies to hypothetical and counter-factual situations. Might is also the past tense of May .
- May applies to situations that are possible or could be possible.
- When talking about something that is not happening, it may be better to use might to avoid confusion with the permissive permission.
Remember! You must be aware of the next calls if you want to obtain your official title. Good luck!