I discovered that in some cases the question "might I..." when asking for permission politely is more common than "may I". For example "Might I join you?" Which question would be more common while asking for permission "might I?" or may I?" Of course I realize that there is also "could I?" "would you mind?" and so on but I'd like to know the difference in usage between "Might I" and "may I."

1 Answer 1


might and may both talk about the possibilities but then, the former one is a past tense and the latter one is for the present tense. Hence, it depends on the context you are referring to.

I may go home early if I’m tired. (present tense)
He might have visited Italy before settling in Nuremberg. (past tense)

However, in practice, both are interchangeable.

Now, asking for something politely takes 'may'. On the other hand, 'may' and 'might' are possible to make polite suggestions. Merriam Webster explains it:

'May' is used to ask permission in formal speech, and both may and might are used to make polite suggestions:

The examples follow:

May I be excused?
May I help you with your luggage?
Next time you might try washing it in the sink.
You may want to consider leaving early

  • 1
    I think it's much more common to say "may I" when asking permission than "might I". But "might I" is sometimes used. I don't think there's any particular type of request or setting where one is preferred over the other.
    – Jay
    Apr 8, 2015 at 13:53
  • @Jay I don't know but somehow might I? does sound too odd. If not your comment above, I would think that is incorrect :-( well, not quite incorrect, but something that is better avoided. Apr 9, 2015 at 4:31
  • @Jay I already mentioned it, 'asking someone' takes 'may'. But polite suggestions may take both -might/may.
    – Maulik V
    Apr 9, 2015 at 4:33
  • 2
    @MaulikV Sometimes people use "might" for requests. "May I have some of that pie?" "Might I have some of that pie?" Etc.
    – Jay
    Apr 9, 2015 at 12:36
  • @Jay they might, but it really looks a bad choice over 'May' in such context.
    – Maulik V
    Apr 9, 2015 at 12:40

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