A study-aid book says

may[might] as well - use when there is no reason no to do this.

I have trouble understanding the difference between "may as well" and "might as well".

Do those two really mean the same?

Can they be replaced with each other, all the time?

For example:

I finished cleaning up my room earlier, so I may as well wash the dishes, too.

I finished cleaning up my room earlier, so I might as well wash the dishes, too.

  • Hi again. We are likely to close questions that don't have a lot of detail, or which don't explain why the phrase is difficult for you. Could you please add more information to your question? You can edit it directly.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 17:02
  • What @Andrew said. I see no real possibility of a semantic distinction between May I ask a question? and Might I ask a question?, but whereas You may ask is a natural response affirming permission to ask, the far less likely You might ask would ordinarily be interpreted as an assertion that it's feasible that you will ask (regardless of whether you're "allowed" to). But that's just one context where there's a potential difference - there are too many contexts to all be addressed by a single answer to such a vague question. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 17:30
  • Why don't you learn the basics first. I suggest that you study their functions as modal auxiliary verbs, then their differences. Try to avoid translating expressions and/or sentences directly from your language to English. They are not the same, man. (I know my English is not perfect, but I hope you understand my point.)
    – Zakiya
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 2:58
  • I know it has difference where might is softer than may, but how can it be translated if only said decide on whether softer or not. I think they have some rules unless it is really interchangeable, which Id like to know. Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 3:17

4 Answers 4


Both the phrases "may as well" and "might as well" mean the same; they are interchangeable.

You use either to suggest that something should be done or accepted because there's no other better alternative or good reason not to do it. For examples:

We may/might as well go home. There's nothing more to do.

We may/might as well start the meeting - the others will be here soon.

The use of the "might as well" is more common.


Use of may and might are pretty much interchangeable in common usage. Nevertheless, you should use might when stating a counterfactual outcome for an event that has already occurred:

If the event or situation referred to did not in fact occur, it's better to use might have: The draw against Italy might have been a turning point, but it didn't turn out like that. (from Oxford Dictionaries Online).

So if, say, you were faced with two alternative solutions to a problem and the one you chose turned out to be no better than the other, you might say something like

I ordered my favorite meal, but the preparation was so bad I might as well have ordered my least favorite.

If you were to say

... may as well have ordered my least favorite.

it would be implying that there is a possibility that you did order your least favorite, which is not the case here.

  • I don't agree with your final point. To me, I may as well have married her implies exactly the same as might as well - that I didn't actually marry her, but the situation would have been no better (or worse) whether I had done so or not. I'd have to discard as to imply that it's possible, feasible that I married her - I may well have married her (but I'm not willing to say for sure one way or the other). Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 17:59

As for me, we can hardly show any difference between them both as they are interchangeable, evident from the instances of their wide usage. Both these convey the sense of inevitability of making do with the option left to move further.


The word may is typically used in the present tense to indicate something that's likely to happen (I may as well take the bus) or to ask for permission (obviously, May I). The word might is typically used in the past tense to describe something that's unlikely to happen (She might as well have married a tree [rather than that useless man]), or situations that didn't take place (That might have been a good idea).

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