Difference Between May and Might (With Table)

Language has evolved from sounds into words, phrases, and sentences. Language is how to think and process information. Language helps in conversation and discussion with our fellow members. To process the data in our mind to converse or write, all need to follow the basic language rules.

As the language evolved in due course, Grammar played a crucial role in the system of language. Native language is a natural development in the child. While learning a foreign language, it becomes decisive to understand the grammatical rules. Verbs are an integral part of the English language, and it describes an action or a state of being.

Modal verb combines with another verb to describe mood or tense. A modal is known as modal auxiliary or modal verb. The linguist has identified nine core modals in English. The modal verb may and might are considered core modals.

May vs Might

The difference between May and Might is that May represents a modal auxiliary verb. It is part of many sentences and even highlights the mood. It highlights a possibility of an event or action and, the word may with a verb’s base form. 

The word may is used when it is possible or could be factual. The event has a likely chance to take place.

  • We may go on vacation.

While seeking or giving permission, we utilize the word may.

  • May I get the document?

While expressing wish or hope, we utilize the word may.

  • May God bless you.

When there is a remote possibility of any event or action in the future, we use the word might. To signify a remote possibility of an event.

  • His parents might get upset with the marks.

To express someone’s thought or something said or asked.

  • I bought some snacks, as I thought she might come to the class today.

To ask a question or to politely request.

  • I wonder if I might have your notes?

To suggest something.

  • I think you might try this move one more time.

The word might denote strength.

Comparison Table Between May and Might

Parameter of ComparisonMayMight
MeaningMay is used to expressing the happening of an event.There may be a possibility of an event to occur, but the chances are less.
Alternate MeaningMay is the name of the month.Might is strength.
UsageThe situation is factual or likely to happen.The situation is hypothetical or not likely to happen.
PermissionIt is for granting or seeking permission.It is for seeking permission.
TenseMay is usually present tense.Might is mostly the past tense.

What is May?

May is a modal auxiliary verb for expressing a sentence with a higher possibility of an action or an event. The decision may be factual. The factuality may not even occur. To use may, the verb’s base form is essential. May is generally part of the sentence when seeking or granting permission. Example: Ms. X may be at work or perhaps at home. The usage of this Modal Verb as a rhetorical device to express or introduce someone else’s opinion.

Asking or granting permission:

May is generally used to express or ask for permission. There are modal verbs like can or could. May is polite and formal. 

  • May I borrow your umbrella as it is raining?

Making a polite offer:

May is used to offering or doing something to others.

  • May I help you set the table?”

Expressing possibility:

May is to express the possibility of an event or occurrence in the future and is probably uncertain.

  • “I am worried it may start snowing soon.”

Expressing wishes for the future:

The word may is a formal language to express a wish or desire for something happening in the future. 

  • May you be safe in your onward expedition.”

As a rhetorical device:

To introduce or emphasize an opinion or a sentiment about a subject. The verb may is part of the sentence.

  • May I be frank, I am very disappointed with his choice.”

What is Might?

The modal verb might express an uncertain or unlikely possibility. To be very formal, polite, and while seeking consent, the modal verb might get conveyed. May’s past tense is might. 

Expressing possibility:

Might indicates possibility; it implies a likelihood of occurrence of an event that may not occur.

  • “I am expecting she might ring me later.”

Politely asking for permission:

May is the modal verb expressed to seek permission politely. For being extremely polite might is expressed. 

  • Might I ask you a few questions?”

Making suggestions:

The word should suggest a forceful and direct sentence. It might help in making polite suggestions to someone.

  • “The dish tastes tasty, though you might add a bit more salt.”

Suggesting a possibility:

Might suggest a possible action or possibility to another person.

  • “I thought you might like this series, so I bought the tickets.”

Introducing differing information:

Combining the contrary statements in a sentence.

  • “I might not have free time, but I am happy with my life.”

As a rhetorical device:

To politely emphasize an opinion about something.

  • Might I say, this is a peaceful time in the morning?”

Main Differences Between May and Might

  1. The other meaning of the word may is a month in the year. The word might also suggest strength.
  2. May is a verb to express a strong possibility of an event. Might is a past form to convey the occurrence of an event but to a smaller extent.
  3. The word may is for seeking and granting permission. The verb might seek consent.
  4. May gets expressed in a factual situation. The verb might convey circumstances that are unlikely to happen.
  5. May is generally present tense. May’s past tense is might.

Conclusion

The modal verb may is expressed when a situation where something is likely to happen. You are not sure whether the circumstance is probable to take place. When there is even a slight chance for an event modal verb, might is utilized.

In our regular speech, the modal verb may and might express possibility. Many times while communicating modal verbs may and might be used interchangeably. The modal verb may express a situation where something is likely to happen.

You are not sure whether the circumstance is probable to take place. When there is even a slight chance for an event to occur the modal verb might express the same. The modal verb might is generally used more often while speaking.

References:

  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1995-01678-001
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-009-1303-3

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