Here is part four in my new series, where I take a look at the weird and wonderful world of words. If you missed part one, please click here. You’ll find part two here and part three here. For part four click here and here’s part five.
Q. When is it best to use the word ‘may’ and when is it more appropriate to use ‘might’?
A. The two words both express the possibility of something. There is a school of thought that suggests ‘may’ (present tense) should be used when the something is current e.g.:
I may have to work late tonight.
Building on this, it’s put forward that ‘might’ should be implimented if the something in question has happened in the past. For example:
She might have read that book last week.
Nonetheless, today, the words tend to be used interchangably e.g.:
I might have to work late tonight.
She may have read that book last week.
However, there is a difference between ‘may have’ and ‘might have’ in some situations. If there is uncertainty about something, either can be used e.g.:
He thinks he may have eaten something he shouldn’t have.
She thinks she might have to resit her exam.
But if the situation or event didn’t happen, ‘might have’ is used rather than ‘may have’ e.g.:
If she hadn’t been injured, she might have been an Olympic swimmer, but things didn’t turn out that way.
Interesting word of the week:
Meaning: Physical beauty/comeliness