Both may be and shall be are modal verbs that can be employed in a variety of situations. Both terms refer to an activity or habit that will take place in the future. Both modal auxiliary verbs denote the likelihood of possible or likely action.
As a result, many people may mistake them for one another. There are, nevertheless, some significant differences between them.
- “May be” indicates a possibility or uncertainty, while “shall be” expresses a strong intention, requirement, or prediction.
- “May be” grants permission or acknowledges an option, while “shall be” conveys obligation or command.
- Both phrases serve different functions in language, with “may be” expressing uncertainty and “shall be” indicating certainty or intent.
May Be vs Shall Be
May be is an English verb phrase which means “might be”. It is used in sentences to indicate the possibility of something. May be is used for a singular subject. Shall be is used in a context to imply the future tense. When shall be is used in a sentence, it expresses intentions, suggestions or an order. The subject can be singular or plural when shall be is used.
‘May be’ used to express a grant or permission of consent, an implied potential, the ability to undertake an undertaking, or a duty to execute. In legal papers, the last occasion frequently substitutes the words “must” and “must.
‘Might be’ in the past tense of maybe.
When the word shall be is employed in the second or third person, it suggests a promise, mandate, or coercion. It also denotes the firmness and certainty of action. In the second and third person, shall be is also used in solitary and multiple subjects.
It implies a firm determination, which frequently manifests as a requirement or necessity.
|Parameters of Comparison
|Permission, demonstrating capability, and obligation are all words that can be used with may (in legal situations).
|Shall be is a phrase that can be used to express proposals, recommendations, and demands.
|May be has a singular subject.
|The subject of shall be can be singular or plural.
|May be is frequently used in the second person.
|Shall be can be used in the first, second, and third person.
|The past tense of may be is might be.
|Its past tense is should be.
|May be is less intent and less forceful.
|It is more intent and more forceful.
What is May Be?
This verb phrase in English implies “could be” or “could be.
Furthermore, “be” can be used as a primary verb or as part of continuous verb tense.
It also denotes the possibility of something. However, it is a verb phrase, not an adverb. May be is made up of the two very well-known verbs may and be.
These are two different terms in this context and relate to something that could occur or a condition of circumstances that could exist.
It is commonly used in the second person and when the topic is singular. When used in a legal agreement, it may have the connotation of obligation. May be implies the possibility of something.
The word “may be” is used in the present tense. Maybe expresses a potential that is not explicitly stated.
Here it is with “be” as the main verb:
There may be another chance to try for that job offer.
As in the following example, “may be” can also be used to offer a courteous proposal. The verb “be” serves as the main verb in this sentence:
It may be a good idea to start your start-up.
Here’s an instance of a present continuous (or be + -ing) verb tense with “be”:
We may be going to the movies later today.
What is Shall Be?
Shall be frequently implies a singular or multiple subject’s future activities. The modal verb can be utilised in the first, second, and third persons. Should be is the past tense of shall be.
The word shall is used in the first person to denote the future tense. This holds for singular and multiple subjects alike. It suggests a vow, order, or coercion when used in the second or third person. It also denotes the initiative’s firmness and finality.
Shall be is also used in both singular and plural subjects in the second and third person.
It can also be found in official documents such as legal documents. Furthermore, the phrase shall be regarded as having a more intense or strong tone. The phrase “shall be” denotes the fulfilment of potential.
Shall be is frequently intermingled with will be. However, ‘will be’ should be used as a basic rule for positive and negative phrases concerning the future. You can also use ‘will’ to make requests.
On the other hand, ‘shall be’ must be used in the form of a question if you want to make an offer or a proposal with I/we. Use ‘shall’ for particularly formal phrases, especially when describing obligations.
Main Differences Between May Be and Shall Be
- Both must and may be used in different situations. Offers, ideas, and requests are sent using the former. Meanwhile, the latter is utilized for getting consent, demonstrating capability, and expressing responsibility (in legal situations).
- May be has a singular subject, while the subject of shall be can be singular or plural.
- May be is frequently used in the second person, whereas Shall be can be used in the first, second, and third person.
- Both may be and shall behave their separate past forms. The past tense of the maybe is might be and that of shall be is should be.
- May be is less intent and less forceful. On the other hand, shall be is more intent and more forceful.
Last Updated : 13 July, 2023
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Emma Smith holds an MA degree in English from Irvine Valley College. She has been a Journalist since 2002, writing articles on the English language, Sports, and Law. Read more about me on her bio page.