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May and Might

Oh, the possibilities! If you use these two words interchangeably when you speak, you are not alone. May and might deal with things that are, were, or will be possible; there are subtle differences between the two that are worth knowing.


  • We might sit down to eat dinner.
  • She may have run for president.
  • The coffee might cool down during your meeting.


May is used for things that really could happen, as in “I may be correct.” Might is for things that are hypothetical, as in “I might have driven a little too enthusiastically.” It’s likely that you will sit down to eat dinner, so use may. Few of us know people who have run for president, so use might. And that coffee will definitely cool down, so use may. If it’s probable, use may. If it’s unlikely or only vaguely possible, use might.


Consider the famous children’s poem: “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.” It trained us to use may and might the same way. But if you take it (and your wish) seriously and practice daily, you may get your wish to perform at Carnegie Hall. If you never practice except in the shower, you might.

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