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Grammar lesson of the month: May vs. Might (+ 5 slang words you might start using soon!)

May 1, 2016

For the month of May, we are looking at the modal of the same name: MAY. May is often used interchangeably with MIGHT: do you know when to use these auxiliary verbs?

Remember, MAY and MIGHT are both used with another verb.

  • MAY + BASE VERB
  • MIGHT + BASE VERB

Examples:

  • You MAY open your books and complete your test. 
  • You MIGHT want to bring an umbrella today. 

But what are the differences? Let’s take a look.

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May vs. Might

Difference #1: A subtly stronger meaning

MAY is slightly stronger than MIGHT in many examples.

  • I may go to the store later.
  • I might buy something from Louis Vuitton once in my life.
  • I may go see a movie soon.
  • I might meet someone famous if I go to Los Angeles.

Difference #2: MIGHT as the past tense of MAY

MIGHT is the past tense of MAY, so you will probably use MIGHT when you are talking about the past.

  • I might have left my keys in the restaurant. (Sure, in this example, you can also use MAY . . . but since we are talking about the past, it’s “better” to use MIGHT.)
  • I thought we might never find you!

Difference #3: Using MAY to ask permission

MAY is used exclusively to ask politely for something.

  • May I please speak with you for a moment?
  • May I have another piece of cake, please?

Difference #4: Using MIGHT to clarify that you’re not talking about permission

The examples in Difference #3 show that we use MAY for permission. Sometimes, if we use MAY in a sentence it seems like we are using MAY in this way, when in reality we want to say “probably” or MIGHT.

  • We may take a car to the airport. (Does this mean we have permission to take a car to the airport, or does this mean that we will perhaps take a car to the airport?
  • We may might take a car to the airport.
  • I may take the TOEFL exam next week. (Does this mean the person has permission to take the TOEFL exam, or does this mean that the person will perhaps take the TOEFL exam?)
  • I may might take the TOEFL exam next week.

To learn more about modals, check out our article on The Modal MUST and another on English Modals of Obligation.  

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Slang words international students might use after studying English in California

Word #1: On fleek 

  • Definition: amazing, perfect
  • Example: Your outfit is on fleek and so is your hair.

Word #2: Amazeballs

  • Definition: amazing
  • Example: Have you seen this video? It’s amazeballs.

Word #3: Bae

  • Definition: short for “baby”: a word for your boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Example: He has to drop everything when bae calls.

Word #4: Ima

  • Definition: short for “I’m going to” or “I’m about to”
  • Example: Can we eat now? Ima get real hungry soon!

Word #5: Hangry

  • Definition: a combination of “hungry” and “angry”: how you feel when you are angry because you are hungry.
  • Example: I think we need to stop for lunch. She’s getting hangry.

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