Questions and negatives:

We make questions by putting the subject after may/might:
May I …? Could I … Might I …? Etc.

The negative forms are may not and might not..

We use may:

  • when we are not sure about something:

Jack may be coming to see us tomorrow.
Oh dear! It’s half past ten. We may be late for the meeting.
There may not be very many people there.

  • to make polite requests:

May I borrow the car tomorrow?
May we come a bit later?

When we use may not for a refusal it is emphatic:

You may not!
You may not borrow the car until you can be more careful with it.

We use might:

• when we are not sure about something:

I might see you tomorrow.
It looks nice, but it might be very expensive.
It’s quite bright. It might not rain today.

• As the past tense of may for requests:

He asked if he might borrow the car.
They wanted to know if they might come later.

• For very polite requests:

Might I ask you a question?
Might we just interrupt for a moment?

We use may have and might have to show that something has possibly happened now or happened at some time in the past:

It’s ten o’clock. They might have arrived now.[= Perhaps they have arrived]
They may have arrived hours ago. [= Perhaps they arrived hours ago.]

 

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Helo LearnEnglish experts.
I am writing my masters thesis in English and it's the second time when I encounter the same problem: how to speak about uncertainty in the past? I am reffering to an old article in which certain results where questioned as uninformative due to procedure weakness. How should I write about this?
I tried: " the authors remark themselves that this (negative result) might be due to the experimental design and imperfections of measure". But shouldn't I use "might had been" (have been?) in this case? Thank you a lot for an answer!

Hello nona999,

It's hard to be sure without knowing the full context but I suspect that you might use one of the following: might have beencould have been or may have been. You could also use it is possible that this was due to or it is possible that this was caused by, though you would need to change the sentence somewhat.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for quick responding! I think that "might have been" should work. However, I wonder if it is still valid if I start the sentence with the past tense:"the authors remarked that...". Would it be the case to use the "might had been"? Do we ever use this form? ....Thank you once more, greetings to my beloved Poland!

Hello nona999,

Yes, you could also use 'remarked' instead of 'remark' – both are fine with 'might have been' afterwards. Modal verbs such as 'might' are not followed by 'had' + a past participle; instead, use 'have' + past participle

Good luck with your thesis!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,
What is the meaning of may have in folowing sentence ?
Is this past sentence ?

" The actress may have an expensive taste in fashion but her diet is very simple "

Thanks
Sanjay

Hello sanjay.singh,

'may' (and also 'might') can be used to communicate concession. For example, the following two sentences mean the same thing:

Gupta may be rich, but he has no friends.
Although Gupta is rich, he has no friends.

As you can see, the part of the sentence with 'may' is expressed as true but also as irrelevant to what is said in the second part.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi LearnEnglish Team,

Kindly help me considering the following alternatives which i used for the modal verb "may" the one that suggests possibility in particular.

# She may drive the car.

alternatives:
1) perhaps she will drive the car
2) It is possible that she will drive the car.
3) She has the possibility that she will drive the car.

4) It is possible for her to drive the car.
5) She has the possibility to drive the car

In my opinion, i think that 1,2,3 sounds much precise as alternatives of "may" as well as its usage for possibility but the things that i doubt is 4) and 5) because i don't know what they are suggesting.

so now some question arises,

Q. If 1,2,3 suggest possibility then what do 4 and 5 suggest ?
Q. Is it possible that 4 and 5 are used as alternatives for " She can drive the car" which
suggests ability "be able to" ?
for example.
# She may drive the car. (Possibility)
alternatives:-- 1) perhaps she will drive the car
2) It is possible that she will drive the car.
3) She has the possibility that she will drive the car.

# She can drive the car. (Ability)
alternatives :-- 4) It is possible for her to drive the car.
5) She has the possibility to drive the car.

LEO.

Hi, Is there a difference between following sentences?
'I may see you tomorrow.'
'I might see you tomorrow.'
It says both may and might are used when we are not certain.
Also can you please tell me the sentence 'you have not improved any bit' is grammatically correct, or is it you have not improved a bit.

Hi Melody16,

In this context, both 'may' and 'might' are possible. There are differences in other contexts, but not when talking about certainty.

In your second sentence 'any' is not correct; 'a bit' is correct here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

how can I make the difference between request and permission?

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