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What's the Difference Between May and Might?

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May and Might are both modal verbs in the English language. Therefore, one might think that they have similar meanings. However, there are slight differences that can change a sentence’s meaning. 

The main difference between May and Might is that May is used to describe circumstances that are hypothetical but might occur. Might, on the other hand, refers to hypothetical, unrealized situations.

This blog post will further discuss the differences in more detail. We shall also discuss how the difference in these two words changes the entire meaning of a sentence.

What is May?

The word May can be used in various scenarios. It can be used to ask for permission. For instance, a child in school asks, “May I go to the toilet?”.

Moreover, it can be used to express a wish. For example, “May your wishes come true!”. Lastly, it can be used to express possibility. For example, you might say "It may rain tomorrow." As you can see, the word "may" is versatile and can be used in a variety of situations. 

What is Might?

Might is a word that can be used in a number of different ways. It can be used as a verb, meaning “to have the power or strength to do something.”

For example, you might say, “I might be able to lift that heavy box.” In addition, might can be used as an adverb, meaning “perhaps.” For example, you might say, “I am not sure what time it is, but it might be late.” As you can see, the word might is versatile and can be used in many different ways.

One does not use the word Might, to ask for permission. Instead, it is often used to respond to a question you might be asked. For instance, you can use Might if someone asks you if you are free tomorrow. However, although it mentions the potential, there is no assurance at that time.

Key Differences between May and Might

Difference in Usage

May is a verb used in phrases to indicate a greater likelihood that an action will occur. On the other hand, Might, a past participle form of may, is likewise used to indicate the potential of an event occurring; it only does so when there is a very slight chance that it will.

When you use may, you are asking for permission or expressing possibility. For example, you might say “May I go to the bathroom?” Asking for permission. Or “It may rain later.” Expressing possibility.

On the other hand, when you use might, you are expressing more of a remote possibility. For example, “If I study hard, I might get an A on the test.” The event is less likely to happen than if you simply said, “I will get an A on the test.”

In summary, may is used when asking for permission or when something is possible. Might is used when expressing a remote possibility.

Difference in Asking or Giving Permission

You can use the word may to ask for or give official permission from/to someone. On the other hand, you can only use might to request for approval; you cannot use it to give it.

Difference in Tense

May and might are both words that can be used to indicate possibility. However, there is a subtle difference in their usage. May is used to describe something that is possible in the present or future tense. For example, “I may go to the store later.”

Might is used to describe something that is possible in the past, present, or future tense. For example, “She might have gone to the store already.” As you can see, might is used more often to describe hypothetical situations. Consequently, it is often seen as the more optimistic of the two words.

Comparison chart

UsageUsed in situations that are likely to happen.Potential chances of, but no assurance of an event occurring.
MeaningA verb expressing the possibility of an event happening.A past tense that is used in phrases to indicate a little potential of an event occurring.
PermissionSeeking and giving permission.Seeking permission
ExampleI may go to the park.I might travel next month.

Similarities between May and Might

The key similarity between May and Might is that they are both verbs that can be used interchangeably in a sentence.

Both indicate a possibility

May and Might are both words that indicate possibility. They can be used interchangeably in most cases. For example, you might say, "I may go to the store later," or "I might go to the store later." In this case, both words indicate that there is a possibility that you will go to the store, but you are not sure.

Might can also be used to express more of a sense of doubt than may. For example, you might say, "I might be able to help you with that" if you are unsure whether or not you can help. Ultimately, both words can be used to express different shades of meaning, but they are generally interchangeable.


How do I use might in questions?

Might is an extremely formal and courteous approach to request something or offer a proposal.

What is the difference between May and Might?

The word May suggests that you are more inclined to take action. The word Might implies that you are less likely to take action.

Can we use Might for future tense?

Might can be used to discuss future possibilities. For instance, it might snow tomorrow.


Both May and Might are words that are not commonly used. However, both of them have very distinct meanings that can be interchanged depending on the situation. 

Finally, may is always used in an indicative mood, while might can also be used in a subjunctive mood. So next time you're not sure which word to use, take a moment to think about the implications of each one.


Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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