May and might
|possibility||It may rain today.|
|permission to do sth. in the present (substitute form: to be allowed to)||May I go to the cinema?|
|polite suggestion||May I help you?|
|possibility (less possible than may) *||It might rain today.|
|hesitant offer *||Might I help you?|
May is used to express permission. May not is used to deny permission.
- May I come in, sir?
- Yes, you may.
- May I go home now?
- No, you may not.
- May I say something now?
- May I ask one question?
Now-a-days to deny permission we often use cannot instead of may not. This usage is probably encouraged by the fact that the contraction can’t is easier to say than the contraction mayn’t.
May is also used to express possibility.
- It may rain.
- She may come.
- He may get good marks.
- She may agree with this plan.
- They may not be happy about what happened.
- It may shower tonight.
May is also used in expressing a wish.
- May God bless you!
- May his soul rest in peace!
May is used in subordinate clauses that express a purpose.
- Farmers use fertilizers so that they may have a rich harvest.
- We eat that we may live.
Might is the past tense of may in indirect speech.
- He said, ‘I may stand for election.’
- He said that he might stand for election.
- Alice said, ‘I may come.’
- Alice said that she might come.
Might and may
Might shows less possibility than may. (Used to suggest a smaller possibility than may does (actually, might is more common than may in American English):
- It may rain. (Maybe a 50% possibility)
- It might rain. (Maybe a 30% possibility)
- He might have finished it.
- I might go see a doctor.
- I might not come this time.
- It might be right.
- You might have lost it.
May and might are followed by an infinitive without to.
- He may come. (NOT He may to come.)
- I might pass. (NOT I might to pass.)
Questions and negatives are made without do.
- May I go? (NOT Do I may go?)
There is no -s in the third person singular.
- She may pass. (NOT She may passes.)