may, might, may have and might have

 

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

Comments

dear sir,
I have a bit confusion about using "may have arrived" and "might have arrived" as I know we use "might have arrived" in past unreal condition, could u more explain about "may have arrived"
thx

Hello aaminah,

In modern English in most contexts 'may have' and 'might have' are interchangeable and have the same meaning:

Why is he all wet?

I suppose it may have / might have rained. [both are fine]

When a situation has not occured, and we are talking about a past possibility which did not come about, then we use 'might have' rather than 'may have'. For example:

Some people were sick at the party and so I might have got sick too, but in the end it was OK. [only 'might' is possible]

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Dear sir,

I have some hesitation with the use of might have and could have. For an instance,

1. If she tried well, she might have got more marks in the exam.
2. If they played a little bit well, they could have won the match.

So what are the difference between two examples? Could you please, rectify me by giving some more examples?

Hello km masum-143,

These are examples of modal verbs and modal verbs' meanings are very much context-dependent.

If she tried hard, she might have got more marks in the exam.

Here, 'might' refers to the chance of something happening (probability). In other words, there was a chance of more marks in the exam, but we do not know if it would happen or not. If we replace 'might' with 'could' then the sentence would refer to the possibility of something happening - i.e. more marks is now possible, whereas without trying hard it was not possible.

If they played a little bit better, they could have won the match.

The distinction is the same here: might tells us that there was a chance of winning, while 'could' tells us that the change (playing better) would have made it possible.

Note that the choice of 'might' and 'could' is up to the speaker. Both are correct; the difference is in emphasis.

You can find many examples of these in our modal verbs section.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi teacher.
here is sentence ,i just have read in newspaper,

"“I’m not Steavie,” he said after I had watched him for a while, and finally approached with what he might have assumed were troublesome questions."
what is connection of "were" with "might have" and what is the subject of "were".

Hello waqar_ahmad,

In this sentence, the noun phrase 'what he might have assumed' is the subject of 'were'. 'might have' doesn't connect directly with 'were', but is rather part of the noun phrase and its meaning is contained in that. Below I'll strip the sentence down to a simpler form, and then add to it - I think that might help you see how this works.

"“I’m not Steavie,” he said after I had watched him for a while, and finally approached with troublesome questions."

"“I’m not Steavie,” he said after I had watched him for a while, and finally approached with what he assumed were troublesome questions."

"“I’m not Steavie,” he said after I had watched him for a while, and finally approached with what he might have assumed were troublesome questions."

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! teacher
which one is correct?
1. many people knows you
2. many people know you
thanks

Hi Oscas Po,

The second sentence is correct, as 'people' is a plural noun in English.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! learnenglish team
I completely failed to understand the meaning of these two sentenses.
1. how's the new job? are you getting used to it yet?
2. the noise was deafening but the driver was used to it?
could you please clarify to me?
thank you.

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