"It's may not going to be easy"

Is it grammatical?

When using "is" and "may" at the same sentence?

  • 1
    it could be 'it may not be going ... ' or 'it might not be going ...' both may and might are modal verb. – Hakan May 1 '14 at 8:03

It is a mistake. It should be:

It's not going to be easy.


I guess it's not going to be easy.


It may not be easy.

  • 1
    Or "It may not be easy." – Johns-305 May 1 '14 at 14:10

Is may is not a grammatical construction. You must say:

It may not be going to be easy, or, more simply
It may not be easy.

This is a complicated sentence which involves two different ways of putting verbs together, so a little Grammar may be helpful.

One complete clause has one and only one finite (simple present or simple past) verb.

However, this verb may also head a construction or a chain with one or more non-finite verbs.

One complete clause has one and only one finite (simple present or simple past) verb.

This may combine with other verbs in two ways:

  • Verb constructions
  • Verb chains

If the verb in the clause is a construction, composed of a lexical verb with auxiliaries, only the first auxiliary is a finite verb; all the other verbs in the chain must be non-finite forms: infinitives or participles.

When you combine these constructions—for instance, in a modal progressive, or a perfect passive—they follow a strict order:

modal - perfect - progressive - passive

Each construction determines two things:

  • what auxiliary is employed: a modal verb (can/could, may/might, shall/should, will/would) opening a modal construction, HAVE opening a perfect construction, BE opening a progressive construction, and BE again opening a passive construction

  • what non-finite form the following verb takes: an infinitive closing a modal construction, a past participle closing a perfect construction, a present participle closing a progressive construction, and a past participle again closing a passive construction

Here's a picture: Pcon4 Note that modal verbs are ‘defective’—they have no non-finite forms, only the simple present and simple past finite forms, can/could, may/might, shall/should, will/would. You cannot say I want to mayinfinitive or She has mayedpast participle or They are maying or He was mayed. That is why if a modal verb is present it must always be the first verb in the construction—because it cannot take the non-finite form which all the other constructions require.

  • This is the error in your sentence “It's may not going to be easy”. It is not may is impossible; you must say It may not be, with the modal may in first place followed (after the interporlated not) by the infinitive be.

And note that the lexical (non-auxiliary verb), whatever form it takes, is always the last verb in the construction. When you reach a lexical verb, the construction is finished.

English also has a large number of catenative or chaining’ verbs: lexical verbs which may take other lexical verbs as their complements. The complement may be an infinitive or a participle/gerund; some verbs take only one, some take both:

  • expect to VERB
  • want to VERB
  • have to VERB
  • like to VERB and like VERBing
  • enjoy VERBing
  • *stop VERBing

And transitive adjectives which take infinitives or participle/gerunds as their complements behave exactly the same way when they form predicates with BE. For our purposes, these may be regarded as catenative verbals:

  • BE ready to VERB
  • BE able to VERB
  • BE worth VERBing

In fact, many such adjectives have a verbal origin:

  • BE prepared to VERB
  • BE going to VERB
  • BE willing to VERB

There is no syntactic restriction on how these verbs and verbals are ordered—that is determined by the semantics—and there is in theory no limit to how many you may string together.

  • She seems to be willing to expect to have to be able to be going to ...

Moreover, any of the verbs in the chain may (if its semantics permit) be a passive or perfect or progressive construction, or a combination of these. In these cases, the first auxiliary in the construction does not take a finite form but the form required by the preceding catenative verb:

  • She expects to have been being allowed to pursue completing the degree for four years in 2018.

(These examples are getting pretty silly, of course. You should try to avoid being compelled to employ such long chains and constructions!)

But regardless of how long and how complex the chain is, it can have only one modal verb, which must be the first verb in the entire string.

And now you see how your sentence should be put together:

  • The subject: It
  • The first verb is the finite modal may
    insert the negator not after that
  • The next verb is BE, which terminates the modal consruction; it is cast as the unmarked infinitive required by the modal: be
  • Be also acts as the head of the catenative verbal BE going to VERB, so the next element is the deverbal going
  • BE, acting as a copula rather than auxiliary, is the catenative complement of BE going; it is cast in the form that expression requires, a marked infinitive: to be
  • The predicate complement: easy.

That's a lot of grammar for one sentence.

  • I don't think you can say "may not be going to be". Or, rather, I can't imagine a native speaker ever coming out with such a monstrosity of a construction. – Martha May 1 '14 at 15:38
  • @Martha Initiating a discourse, I agree; but I can imagine it arising in an echoic situation. A: "This is going to be easy!" B: "No. This may NOT be going to be easy, if what I've just heard is true." – StoneyB on hiatus May 1 '14 at 15:59
  • As a side note... on any other day of the year, I would not point this out, but, technically, "They are maying" is a perfectly fine English sentence. (Or, this year, "They would have gone maying, but it was raining buckets.") It just happens to be a completely different word. Halantow! – Codeswitcher May 2 '14 at 1:25

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