• My dad turned around and stared at us, his fear confirming that something wasn't right ― and maybe even very wrong.

One student struggles to understand the sentence especially in a bold part. - and (something) "may be even very wrong" or "- and maybe even very wrong". I think he/she is unsatisfied with the verb coordination after the conjunction "- dash" with the previous that clause.

In my opinion, it's simply explaining the extent of the dad's judgement (wasn't right - even very wrong). So, maybe is better than may be in the sentence.

Is it an idiom (I saw "Not Even Wrong" as a phrase) or any typos or something else?

  • 1
    Maybe could be replaced with perhaps. The situation was not just "not quite right", it could have been very wrong. May 22, 2021 at 9:12
  • @KateBunting hmm. Okay. It is close to my opinion. The answerer said may be is better though. Thanks. May 22, 2021 at 9:15
  • I didn't mean that you should use 'perhaps', just that it was the sense in which 'maybe' is used (as distinct from the two words 'may be'. May 22, 2021 at 9:20
  • @KateBunting The student seems to have confused about if the verb is omitted after “- and” or not. I think the omission of verb is not the main issue, but it is how you take “maybe” as you have mentioned taking it as “perhaps”. May 22, 2021 at 9:26
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    If may was a verb, the sentence would have to be "Something wasn't right - and may have been very wrong." May 23, 2021 at 7:54

1 Answer 1


It is correct to say "Something may be wrong." In this case "may" is an auxilliary verb and "be" is an infinitive verb. The whole is a sentence. It is correct to say "Maybe something is wrong." In this case "is" is the verb and "maybe" is an adverb, meaning "possibly". Again the whole is a sentence. Both sentences have the same meaning.

Your initial sentence should have "may be", as the subject "something" needs a verb connecting it to "very wrong". Alternatively "... and was maybe even very wrong."

"Not even wrong" appears to have been used by the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. In science a hypothesis needs to be testable to discover whether it is right or wrong; an untestable hypothesis could be described as not even wrong. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

  • hmm. I think I need more contexts to confirm if “may be” is better or not since it is natural to think of “was” is not omitted. How “- dash” is working here? Anyway your answer seems reasonable. Thanks. May 22, 2021 at 5:18
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    If the sentence had used "was not" instead of "wasn't" I would have been happier with not having a separate verb later on. In this case "was" might be regarded as linking to both "not good" and "maybe very wrong". I still prefer having "was" again later though.
    – Peter
    May 22, 2021 at 11:40
  • I think it sounds reasonable , too. The comment above seems to recommend “maybe”. I like the idea if it is a separate verb, “maybe very wrong” works later since it’s consistent. May 22, 2021 at 21:51

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