I would like to know if it is grammatically correct to use may possibly to express possibility, such as in the following sentence:

Middle income countries may possibly experience a significant increase in health expenditure in the next five years.


Although "may possibly" is one of the most common redundancies, you still have a chance of meeting it in books written by the authors whose mother tongue is English. Interestingly, the older the book, the higher your chance of meeting it is, even if it still is very slight, to say the least.

As for me, I don't think that all those authors and the editors of their books were so illiterate as not to be aware of such vocabulary error as a redundancy. So my take on it is that the use of "may possibly", denoting a rather vague, merely hypothetical possibility, sometimes doesn't seem to be so glaring a mistake as, say, reply back, repeat again, cash money, etc.

All that said, it is a redundancy, a vocabulary, not grammatical (IMO) mistake a learner should by all means avoid.

  • 1
    It's basically its own thing now, rather than being a redundancy as native speakers understand it. Just treat "may", "possibly", and "may possibly" as different indicators of possibility - with "may possibly" being generally the vaguest.
    – SamBC
    Mar 10 '19 at 18:51
  • @SamBC So I thought, not being sure, though. Thanks ever so much for commenting.
    – Victor B.
    Mar 10 '19 at 18:59
  • @SamBC I hadn’t thought of it that way but that rings true for sure. Same goes for “might possibly.”
    – Mixolydian
    Mar 10 '19 at 22:41

This sounds redundant to me. The word "may" implies a possibility already, so adding the adverb "possibly" doesn't really change the meaning of the sentence.

  • That's English for you. We use the expression fairly often in Britain at least.
    – SamBC
    Mar 10 '19 at 19:00
  • I definitely agree that this is a common expression, but in the provided sentence’s context it sounds informal to me, and maybe as though the writer is not sure of what they’re saying. Like they’re being timid or cautious about making this statement. (American here, maybe this isn’t something that strikes Brits the same way.)
    – Mixolydian
    Mar 10 '19 at 23:26
  • To me, it expresses a higher degree of uncertainty about the possibility than "may" or "will possibly". Not timid or cautious about making the statement, just expressing more uncertainty.
    – SamBC
    Mar 10 '19 at 23:29
  • I get that too. Maybe it depends on the tone of voice or other nonverbal elements.
    – Mixolydian
    Mar 11 '19 at 18:08

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