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

Dear sir
Can I say (they could have arrived by now) instead of (they may have arrived by now) for (perhaps they have arrived) ??

Hello Yasser Azizi,

Yes, you can say that. There is a slight difference in meaning, as 'could have' tells us that something is not impossible, while 'perhaps' tells us that there is a genuine possibility. We could use 'could have' in an entirely hypothetical situation, unlike 'perhaps'.

For example:

Paul could have won the race. We'll have to wait and see the photo to be sure. [a real possibility]

Paul could have won the race but he was injured. [hypothetical]

Paul could have won the race. We'll have to wait and see the photo to be sure. [a real possibility]

Perhaps Paul won the race but he was injured. [incorrect]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Very helpful
Thank you

Dear sir,
Is this correct? if am late and want to send a message to boss
1. I will be there within an hour
2. I am on the way
or what you suggest?

Hello Umari,

Both sentences are appropriate, though 2 would be untrue if you weren't already out of your home and really already moving towards work. If I were your boss, I would probably be happier to hear 2, since it shows actual evidence, whereas 1 is just a promise.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,
How to Use COULD in the future sentence?
Please advise.

Hello Umari,

'Could' can be used in several ways to talk about the future. For example:

 

Future possibility

He could arrive in ten minutes.

 

Offers and suggestions:

I could take you to the station tomorrow.

We could go the cinema this evening. What do you think?

 

For more examples and a discussion of the difference between can and could please take a look at this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,

I would like to ask the difference between these three sentences:
He "may go" fishing
He "may be going" fishing
He "may have gone" fishing

Would love to hear your advice, thank you!

Hello Maiiixx,

The difference between 'may' and 'may have' is explained on the page above. The uses of 'may' are listed and exemplified and 'may have' is also explained ('We use may have and might have to show that something has possibly happened now or happened at some time in the past'). If you have a question about part of this information then please ask but the information is already there.

 

As far as you second example goes, this is an example of a continuous infinitive form. Its use is highly context-dependent. For example:

He may go fishing. [a guess about a future action or a possible habit he has]

He may be going fishing. [a guess about an arrangement he has in the future or a possible action in the present]

 

The 'arrangement' use here is similar to the use of the present continuous to describe future arrangements.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
Please tell me
What are the differences between “may” & “may be”?
Thanks

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