May vs Must
May and Must are two words in the English language that are confused when it comes to their usage. In fact it should be said that they are very much different from each other in terms of their meanings and usage.
The word ‘may’ indicates a lesser possibility. On the other hand the word ‘must’ indicates the meaning of ‘definite’. In other words it can be said that the word ‘must’ is indicative of definiteness when it comes to an action or duty. This is the main difference between the two words may and must.
Observe the two sentences:
1. He may visit the church in the evening.
2. You must complete the work today.
In the first sentence you can see that the word ‘may’ is used in the sense of ‘lesser possibility’. The sentence would mean that there is a lesser possibility of the person visiting the church in the evening. In the second sentence the word ‘must’ is used in the sense of definiteness and hence the meaning of the sentence would be ‘you should definitely complete the work today’.
The sense of ‘compulsion’ is meant in the usage of the word ‘must’ whereas the sense of ‘possibility’ is meant in the usage of the word ‘may’. In the sentence ‘He may visit the church in the evening’, the possibility of the person visiting the church in the evening is suggested.
It is interesting to note that the word ‘may’ is often followed by the particles ‘be’ and ‘well’ as a mode of emphasis as in the expressions ‘you may be true’ and ‘you may well drink the milk’. You can find that in both the sentences the particles ‘be’ and ‘well’ convey a sense of emphasis. These are the differences between the two words ‘may’ and ‘must’.