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,
unfortunately, I do not see the difference in the meaning between 'may' and 'might' in simple sentences, wich descript something - but not in form of questions. Would you explain it me? Thanks a lot.

For example:
'He may call.' versus 'He might call.' What do these modals denotes actually?

Hello Mike One,

In modern English both 'may' and 'might' can be used interchangeably to talk about possibility.  Some people argue that 'might' suggests that something is less likely than 'may', but I think there is little evidence for this and which of the two is used is really more a question of personal style and preference than anything else.  Certainly, when talking about possibility I cannot think of a sentence where only one of the two would be possible, or where the meaning would change if the other were used.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter,
I thank you for your kind of clearing, too. So, I think my question is answered for my using of english completely, absolut satisfactorily and reassuringly.

Best wishes and good working here,
Mike

dear sir,
could you tell me the difference between these sentence.
1. she might have taken the earlier train.
2. she could have taken the earlier train.
thank you

Hi akhi,

As is explained above, might have refers to something that possibly happened just now or in the past. could have also has this same meaning, but can also mean that she was able to take the train but did not do so.

In other words, the second sentence has an additional possible meaning that the first one does not.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Teachers,
When we communicate with someone , we use may, might in a different way like in the following examples:

  1. You may/might do that.
  2. You may/might pursue that course.

In the above sentences , could you please explain what are modals expressing here and why do we use them in this way.
Best wishes,
Livon
 
 

Hi Livon,

Both of these sentences can mean more than one thing, as is explained above (under where it says "We use may" and "We use might"). Without a context for them, it's not possible to tell you precisely what these sentences mean!

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for your swift reply.
Kirk ,I ask you my query in an another way so that my doubts will be clarified. 
If you used"may/might" in the following way then what could we express.
For example:

  1. (Suppose, you are a worker) if you wish,you may/might finish it tomorrow.
  2. Tomorrow ,you have a test so you may/might study to achieve higher marks.
  3. You may/might need to ask that question from these teachers as they can answer your query in the best possible manner.
  4. You may/might join this course as it is in the high demand. 
  5. Trespassers may be prosecuted or security cameras may be operated in this area.

These are the five sentences .
I just want to know why some native speaker use may/might in this way.
Could you please tell me what may /might expresses in the above sentences.
I hope you clarify my doubts this time.
Warmest regards,
Livon
 
 

Hi Livon,

Ok, these sentences are much clearer. I'll number my answers as you did your questions:

1. may indicates permission to finish it tomorrow
2. This sentence is possible, but a bit unusual. I'd say "you may/might want to study" to suggest the possibility of studying
3. This one is good, except I would suggest "to" instead of "from" before "these teachers". This sentence indicates the speaker is not sure (a possibility).
4. Same as sentence 2, except "may/might want to join". Also, "in high demand", not "in the high demand"
5. Correct - indicates possibility.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much Kirk.
Could you please tell me why you have deleted "the" from the sentence number 4. 
Would you clarify my doubts .
Best wishes,
Livon

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