Difference Between Might and Can (With Table)

You might, and ignorant can wonder what the difference between the phrases Might and Can is. Well, in that case, the Might is used to express the possibility of a scene, while the Can is expressed as something that is able to do. Both phrases’ usage differs according to the type of sentence. 

Might vs Can

The difference between Might and Can is that the might term is used when you are asking for a request or permission, while the term can is used when you are capable of doing something. Furthermore, ‘might’ denotes the possibility and ‘can’ to the ability or capability to do a thing. 

Might is the past tense of the verb may. It is often used in the sentence, which is meant to ask permission or a request. It basically refers to the possibility, permission, liberty in a polite way. Additionally, it also refers to the meaning of strength, power, energy to do something. It also infers someone’s thoughts, sayings and asking permission reasonably. 

On the other hand, the term can is the present tense of the verb could. The meaning of the verb can is the ability to do something physically or mentally. The synonyms of the term ‘can’ deliver the words like know, understand, to be able to do, make or accomplish a task. 

Comparison Table Between Might and Can

Parameters of Comparison Might Can 
Meaning Might is a verb and past tense of may, to express request or permission in doing any action- the ability, power to do the act. Can is a verb and future tense of ‘could,’ that implies something or someone has the right to the action. The word ‘can’ is allowing a person or a thing to do the act.
Used inThe verb might be applied to a sentence to ask for request or permission to do so. The verb ‘can’ is used in a sentence when someone or something is able to do 
Introduction Before the invention of the word ‘might,’ in old English termed might as may-ed-physical strength, later in 1848 named might as past tense of may.The word can is derived from Middle English Can- to know-how or able to do the task. 
TenseMight follow past and future participles which talks about past possibilities and future probabilities.Past tense for can is Could. The present tense of Can is termed as positive can and negative Cannot. There is no future tense for Can but expressed as “I Can.”
Synonyms Strength, vigor, brawn, sinew, power, and energy ‘Could be,’ credible, conceivable, obtainable, and feasible
Example The prosecutor used all his might to bring out the innocents from hell.I can study for 8 hours straight without any distraction. 

What is Might?

As earlier mentioned, ‘might’ is the past tense of the word may. The verb ‘might’ has many meanings. Each one completely differs from one other. Primarily, the verb is used to express someone’s thoughts, suggestions, imaginations, and sayings. 

Over time, it is used in sentences that express the possibility of something that will happen or to be done eventually. On the other hand, it is a polite way of asking for approval to do something. Mostly, ‘might’ is used in a formal conversation to deliver something in a polite way. It is used when you are talking to elders, worthy, and other high-handed people. 

Plus, it is applied in sentences to compare two fundamentally different statements. Lastly, it is the root of the term mighty, which refers to the words power, strength, or force of a person. 

For instance, “I think this article might help me to overcome my difficulties of understanding the difference between the term ‘can’ and ‘might’.” Here, you are expressing your thoughts or suggestions in a polite way.

What is Can?

Coming to the second part, the term has been used since the nineteenth century, with the definition of ability to do something. The term ‘can’ is the present tense of the verb could. 

The ‘can’ is usually used to express the ability to do something physically or mentally. Also, it is used to symbolize the possibility, probability of circumstances that are permitted to be. Unlike ‘might’, the verb ‘can’ is frequently used in informal conversations.

Certainly, ‘can’ is accepted when you are in conversation with your friends or colleagues. Not to mention, ‘can’ also refers to a container, which is used to preserve things. That’s not what we are looking for, but ‘can’ is denoting the possibility of one’s doing something that may depend on another’s consent. 

For instance, “I can understand it”.

Main Differences Between Might and Can

  1. The word might indicate doing any physical activity that determines the strength and energy you have invested in a particular task. On the other hand, the verb ‘Can’ knows how to do an activity that determines the mindset of a person in doing the task.
  2. The word Might doesn’t have any tenses but applies past and future participle that gives past and future possibilities. The word Can have past and present- can and could, but don’t have a future tense.
  3. Both the verbs follow different synonyms, for Might- strength, brawn, energy, power and sinew. Furthermore, Can has the synonyms of Credible, feasible, capability, obtain and could be.
  4. Might is used in case of doing anything or asking for permission, whereas Can is used in engaging in a known act voluntarily.
  5. An example of Might is “I might start earning”, and the verb, Can is “I can go myself”.


Might is the past tense of may, which is used in a sentence of seeking permission, doing a particular action. Can is the present tense of Could that is used for asking anything or want to complete an action. ‘Might’ indicates physical activity, whereas Can implies how to do an action.

‘Might’ refers to doing a physical performance or an action that requires strength and power. ‘Can’ simply means an expressive way of knowing how to do a particular act or action. Might and Can both used or expressed in a sentence of asking permission to do a task. For instance, Might is used in “Might get a payment for the job you have done” and Can applicable in a sentence like “Can I go to the restroom?”.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1522983
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3765669
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