Difference Between May and Might in English Grammar

May vs Might in English Grammar
 

As May and Might are modal auxiliary verbs that have to be understood very well in terms of their meanings and usage, we should pay our attention to the difference between may and might in English grammar. When considering may as a word, it actually has three uses in English language. First of all, may is used as a verb. Secondly as a noun which means “the hawthorn or its blossom” and finally as “the fifth month of the year, in the northern hemisphere usually considered the last month of spring.” In this article, only the first meaning of may as a verb is taken into consideration. Might is the past of may and it is also used as a noun in English to mean “great and impressive power or strength.”

What does May mean?

May is generally used to talk about possibility as in the sentences:

We may be moving to Paris next year.

May I have some more rice?

In both the sentences given above, you can see that the auxiliary verb may is used expressive of possibility. In the first sentence, it talks of the possibility of moving to Paris and in the second sentence, it talks of the possibility of more rice being served.

Quite contrary to might, the auxiliary verb may does not carry the idea of being tentative or hesitant of asking permission.

Observe the sentences:

May I put the television on?

Visitors may not feed the animals.

In the first sentence, the verb may is indicative of permission. The person seeks the permission to switch on the television. In the second sentence, the officials in the zoo have not granted permission for the visitors to feed the animals. There is no element of hesitancy in the permission sought or granted for that matter.

What does Might mean?

The auxiliary verb might, on the other hand, talks of limited possibility as in the sentences:

I think it might rain.

I wonder if I might ask you a favor.

In both the sentences given above, you can see that the modal auxiliary verb might is used expressive of limited possibility. In the first sentence, it talks of a distant possibility of rain and in the second sentence, it talks of the limited possibility of a favor being asked.

Although both may and might are used expressive of permission or to ask for permission, they are used differently. It is interesting to note that might carries the idea of being tentative or hesitant of asking permission.

Observe the following sentences as well.

I wonder if I might have a little more cheese.

You might watch the television.

In the first sentence, permission was sought with hesitation. In the second sentence, permission was granted with hesitation. This is one of the main differences between the use of the two modal auxiliary verbs may and might when they indicated permission.
Might is more conditional in use as in the sentence,

If you took some exercise, you might not be so fat.

Here, might is used in the conditional sense.

Difference Between May and Might in English Grammar

What is the difference between May and Might in English Grammar?

• May is generally used to talk about possibility.

• The auxiliary verb might, on the other hand, talks of limited possibility.

• Although both may and might are used expressive of permission or to ask for permission, they are used differently.

• It is interesting to note that might carries the idea of being tentative or hesitant of asking permission. On the other hand, the auxiliary verb may does not carry the idea of being tentative or hesitant of asking permission.