May vs. Might

May and might allow you to do things in English, such as making predictions and asking permission.

While may and might are used interchangeably when expressing possibility or permission in everyday conservations, remember there are still differences. For example, it’s better to use might when talking about something that’s unlikely to happen to avoid confusion with the permissive may.

When to Use May

Expressing Possibility in the Present / Future

You use “may” + present infinitive when expressing possibility in the present or prediction that’s likely to happen. This means that something may happen, be factual, or be true (but not certain).


The medicines may cause some side effects.

Alley may know to call during an emergency.

I may come tomorrow, but don’t expect too much.

Indicating Possibility in the Past

You use “may” + have when expressing a possibility that happened in the past. In this case, we use may + have + past participle of the verb. If you need help, check your grammar with helpful grammar tools if you’re unsure of the proper verb form.

May Have vs. Might Have

These days, “might have” is more commonly used and preferred in spoken English and American English. While “may have” and “might have” are both grammatically correct, some strict grammarians still prefer “might have” to “may have.”  Hence, “might have” still sounds more natural for most people.


Your friend may have called you while you were sleeping.

He is late. He may have been at the office yesterday all night.

She’s nowhere in sight. She may have already gone home.

Most native English speakers think “might have” usually sounds better. However, if you have a good reason for using “may have” over “might have,” you should go for it.

Stating Polite Expressions

You use “may” to say, ask, or suggest something politely in a formal speaking setting.


If I may add, the initial plan seems unfeasible.

May I do the honor of accompanying you?

May I suggest that you think about the proposal carefully before saying yes?

Asking Permission

You use “may” when asking and giving permission. It is used to say that someone is allowed or not allowed to do something.


May I ask you a question? — Yes, you may.

We’re not yet done. You may not yet leave.

You may talk to her over the phone or meet her in person. Whatever your choice is, you may do it.

Expressing Wish


Happy Birthday. May you have a long and healthy life.

May you fulfill your dreams. I believe in you.

Congratulations. May you have a meaningful marriage.


When to Use Might

Expressing Possibility in the Present / Future

In everyday English, you can use might in the same way as may to say that something is possible, but you are not sure. Moreover, using might slightly increases doubt since using it indicates that something is unlikely to happen.


She’s sick. She might come with us on our trip. (It is unlikely that she will come)

He might be waiting at the station when we arrive.

I might join the party. I need to do more work.

Indicating Possibility in the Past

“Might” refers to the past tense of “may” when expressing the possibility of something that someone talked or thought about.


When I opened up about the issue, they might be uncomfortable.

She didn’t go home early. She might be staying late at the office.

It rained hard. Ann might have stayed home.

Stating Polite Expressions

You use “might” to say, ask, or suggest something politely in everyday English.


If you want to improve your house, you might try buying a new bulb.

It might be better if we tell them the truth.

I’m buying food outside. You might want to come with me.

Expressing Unreal Situation

You use “might” + present infinitive when expressing something hypothetical or unreal. Meaning, it conveys a possibility in the past but did not actually happen.


It’s a good thing you were there. I might have been lonely.

I might have pursued my passion, but I chose a more stable job because I couldn’t afford it.

If they had continued their marriage, they might have worked out well.

Conclusion: May or Might?

May and might commonly confuse people regarding proper usage. While sometimes they can be used interchangeably, particularly in everyday speech, there are differences and similarities between the two.

Furthermore, may and might convey a similar meaning in most cases. They are commonly used in two scenarios: the possibility (past, present, or future) and permission.

Remember, when in doubt, “may” is more likely to happen than “might.”


Learner’s Dictionary. (n.d). Comparing May and Might. In Retrieved Jan 25, 2022, from

Longman Dictionary. (n.d.). May. In dictionary. Retrieved Jan 25, 2022, from

Longman Dictionary. (n.d.). Might. In dictionary. Retrieved Jan 25, 2022, from

Martinet, A.V., Thomson, A.J., A Practical English Grammar 4th Edition. Oxford University Press. pp 132-133.

Wood, T. 2007. Practical Grammar and Composition. Project Gutenberg. p87.