I read "the beast in the jungle" by Henry James, and found the phrase "as may be" embedded in a sentence, just as below.

"When they were two they either mingled their sounds of ecstasy or melted into silences of even deeper import, so that there were aspects of the occasion that gave it for Marcher much the air of the “look round,” previous to a sale highly advertised, that excites or quenches, as may be, the dream of acquisition."

Then I can't understand what this phrase means and how this grammatically works. If you don't mind it, please teach me these points.

2 Answers 2


The air may "excite" or "quench" -- which are opposite things. "As may be" means that it could do either, depending on the circumstance. Either one "may" (is possible but uncertain) "be" (occur).

It draws attention to the way it can produce different results.


It could be lengthened to:

as may be the case depending on the context (the person, their circumstances, etc.)

It may quench the dream of acquisition (one acquires something), or it may excite it (one finds himself desiring to acquire something).

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