This discussion clarifies the difference between "may" and "might".

Now my question to the more knowledgeable native English speakers:

Is any of them preferred over the other in every-day speech? Maybe a more practical rule about when to use one and when the other? Thank you.

Background: I just realized recently that I forgot the existence of the word "might". Trying to bring it back to my vocabulary, I do not want to fall into the other extreme (using it too much).

  • You have to provide context. What type of sentence are you thinking of? – Jason Bassford Mar 25 '19 at 17:41

When talking about people, or other things with agency (animals, companies, etc), we tend to use may for permission and might for possibility. However, that's only a tendency, not an absolute rule - and when talking about things that do not have agency, both just mean possibility.

May I have the pleasure of this dance?
I might skip school tomorrow.

It may rain tomorrow.
The menu might have changed.

I would say that might usually indicates a more remote possibility than may, but I'm not sure that everyone has a consistent understanding of that.

Just to confuse things, can and could are also used both for permission and possibility.

| improve this answer | |
  • I've read that you prefer may in formal or academic language when you talk about possibility. You don't normally use may to ask questions about the possibility of something, but you can use might in such questions to make them formal. Is it true? (Thank you) – Andrew Tobilko Mar 25 '19 at 13:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.