Today, we’re going to explore auxiliary verbs. These little helpers are necessary because they work alongside main verbs to create different verb tenses, moods, and voices. Auxiliary verbs do a lot of the heavy lifting in sentence construction, helping to clarify when actions happen and the conditions under which they occur.

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One common point of confusion in English is the difference between the auxiliary verbs “might” and “may.” Both words contribute to expressing possibility or permission, but they’re often used interchangeably when they shouldn’t be. Understanding when to use each can be a bit tricky, but we’re here to help you out.

Using “May”

“May” is an auxiliary verb that we use all the time in English, and it’s pretty handy for showing what’s possible or for asking permission in a polite way. Let’s break it down a bit so you can see just how versatile “may” can be.

First off, when we talk about possibilities, “may” comes into play by suggesting that something might happen. For example, if you say, “It may rain later,” you’re not sure if it will rain, but it’s a possibility.

On the flip side, “may” is also how we ask for or give permission formally. If you need to leave the room and want to be polite, you might ask, “May I leave the room?” It’s a respectful way to seek permission, and it’s likely how you’d hear it used in formal settings or in the classroom.

Here are a few examples to help you get a feel for using “may”:

  • May I use your phone? – This is a polite way of asking if you can use someone’s phone.
  • We may visit Grandma this weekend if she feels better. – This means the visit will happen if everything goes well.
  • Yes, you may start now. – This is a formal way of telling someone they can begin.
  • There may be more guests than we expected. – Here, you’re considering that the number of guests might increase.
  • May I have the window seat, please? – Again, it’s a courteous way to ask for something you want.

Using “Might”

“Might” is another auxiliary verb that helps us talk about possibilities, but it suggests that something is even less certain than “may.” It’s useful for expressing doubt or speculation, especially when the likelihood of something happening is pretty slim.

When you compare “might” to “may,” think of “might” as being more hesitant. If “may” says there’s a fair chance something will happen, “might” tiptoes around and hints that the chance is there, but it’s not strong. This subtle difference can change the tone of a sentence, making it sound less assertive and more speculative.

Let’s look at some examples to see how “might” works in sentences:

  • We might go to the park, but it looks like it could rain. – Here, “might” shows that the plan is very tentative because of the weather.
  • She might come to the party if she gets off work early. – This sentence expresses uncertainty about her attending.
  • You might want to check that again. – This is a soft suggestion, indicating that checking again is a good idea but not mandatory.
  • He might get the promotion, depending on the final review. – “Might” suggests that the promotion is uncertain and depends on future conditions.
  • They might travel to France next year if they save enough money. – This shows that the trip is just one possible outcome among others.

May or Might? Our Free Grammar Checker Will Decide

Comparing ‘Might’ and ‘May’

In English, the auxiliary verbs “might” and “may” are often used interchangeably, but they serve different purposes and convey varying degrees of likelihood.

Might vs May

Might suggests that something could happen, but the odds are not very strong. It’s often used in situations where the outcome is uncertain or when speculating about hypothetical situations.

May is used to express permission in a formal context and possibility that is more probable than with “might.”

Here’s a simple table to break down the differences:

ProbabilityLess likely, more speculativeMore likely, somewhat certain
PermissionRarely used for permissionCommonly used to grant formal permission
FormalityInformal and formalMostly formal when granting permission
UsageSpeculative, uncertain outcomesProbable outcomes, formal permissions


  • Might: “He might go to the movies tonight if he finishes his work.”
  • May: “You may begin your exam now.”

Whether you’re writing an essay or speaking in a meeting, choosing between “might” and “may” correctly can clarify your intentions and improve the clarity of your communication. Now, let’s remember the rules we talked about and complete the following exercises.

Exercise One

For this exercise, read each sentence carefully and decide whether “might” or “may” best completes the sentence based on the context provided. Choose the option that correctly expresses the degree of probability or permission.

  1. You ____ want to bring an umbrella; the weather forecast said it could rain later.
  2. She ____ be arriving a bit late; she missed the morning train.
  3. Students ____ begin the exam as soon as the bell rings.
  4. He ____ go to the doctor if his fever doesn’t drop by tomorrow.
  5. I ____ take a day off next week to focus on my personal projects.


  1. might – The sentence expresses uncertainty about the weather.
  2. might – This sentence discusses a possibility based on past events affecting future actions.
  3. may – This is a formal permission given in an academic setting.
  4. might – It expresses a conditional possibility based on his health.
  5. may – Suggesting a potential personal decision with some level of formality.

Exercise Two

In this exercise, choose the correct word to fill in the blank that fits the context of each sentence.

I’m not sure, but I ____ be able to attend your party on Saturday.

A) might B) may

You ____ leave the table once you’ve finished your meal.

A) might B) may C)neither

We ____ need to consider an alternative plan if this one fails.

A) might B) may

She ____ have the chance to speak at the conference, depending on her schedule.

A) might B) may C)neither

It ____ rain later, so take a raincoat just in case.

A) might B) may


  1. A) might – It expresses a tentative possibility.
  2. B) may – This provides formal permission.
  3. A) might – Suggesting a less certain backup plan.
  4. B) may – Indicates a fairly good chance or permission in a professional setting.
  5. A) might – Used to suggest a less certain possibility of rain.


What is the difference between “may” and “might”?

“May” and “might” are both modal verbs used to express possibility, but “may” implies a higher likelihood of something happening compared to “might,” which suggests a more speculative or uncertain possibility.

When should I use “may”?

Use “may” when indicating a possibility that is more likely to occur or when granting formal permission. For example, in sentences like “You may leave early if you finish your work” or “It may rain tomorrow.”

When should I use “might”?

“Might” should be used when discussing a possibility that is less certain or more hypothetical. It is often used in situations where the outcome is doubtful. For example, “It might snow tonight, but it’s not very likely.”

Are there any specific grammar rules for “may” and “might”?

“May” and “might” do not follow a strict tense rule, but “may” is generally used for present or future possibilities, and “might” is often used for hypothetical situations that are less certain. Both can be used interchangeably in some contexts, but choosing one over the other can subtly change the meaning of a sentence by indicating different levels of likelihood.

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