might - may

might - may
Might and may are used mainly to talk about possibility. They can also be used to make a request, to ask permission, or to make a suggestion. When might and may can be used with the same meaning, may is more formal than might.
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Might and may are called modals. See entry at ↑ Modals.
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In conversation, the negative form mightn't is often used. The form mayn't is much less common. People usually use the full form may not.

He mightn't have time for such things.

It may not be quite so depressing as you think.

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possibility: the present and the future
You can use might or may to say that it is possible that something is true or that something will happen in the future.

His route from the bus stop might be the same as yours.

This may be why women enjoy going back to work.

They might be able to remember what he said.

Clerical work may be available for two students who want to learn about publishing.

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You can use could in a similar way, but only in positive sentences.

Don't eat it. It could be a toadstool.

See entry at ↑ can - could - be able to.
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You can use might well or may well to indicate that it is fairly likely that something is the case.

You might well be right.

I think that may well have been the intention.

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You use might not or may not to say that it is possible that something is not the case.

He might not be in England at all.

That mightn't be true.

That may not sound very imposing.

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You do not use might not or may not to say that it is impossible that something is the case. Instead you use could not, cannot, or can't.

...knowledge which could not have been gained in any other way.

Kissinger cannot know what the situation is in the country.

You can't talk to the dead.

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You never use may when you are asking if something is possible. You do not say, for example, `May he be right?' You say `Might he be right?' or, more usually, `Could he be right?'

Might it be even earlier?

Could this be true?

Could he remember having seen the picture before?

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Similarly, you do not say `What may happen?' You usually say `What is likely to happen?'

What are likely to be the ecological effects of intensive agricultural production?

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possibility: the past
You use might or may with `have' to say that it is possible that something happened in the past, but you do not know whether it happened or not.

Grandpapa might have secretly married Pepita.

I may have seemed to be overreacting.

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Could have can be used in a similar way.

It is just possible that such a small creature could have preyed on dinosaur eggs.

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However, if something did not happen and you want to say that there was a possibility of it happening, you can only use might have or could have. You do not use `may have'. For example, you say `If he hadn't hurt his ankle, he might have won the race'. You do not say `If he hadn't hurt his ankle, he may have won the race'.

A lot of men died who might have been saved.

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You use might not or may not with `have' to say that it is possible that something did not happen or was not the case.

They might not have considered me as their friend.

My father mightn't have been to blame.

The parents may not have been ready for this pregnancy.

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You do not use might not or may not with `have' to say that it is impossible that something happened or was the case. Instead you use could not have or cannot have.

The measurement couldn't have been wrong.

The girls cannot have been seriously affected by the system.

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requests and permission
May and might are sometimes used when someone is making a request, or asking or giving permission. These are formal uses.

May I look round?

Might we leave our bags here for a moment?

You may speak.

For more information, see entries at ↑ Requests, orders, and instructions and ↑ Permission.
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Might is often used in polite suggestions.

You might like to comment on his latest proposal.

I think it might be a good idea to stop the recording now.

For more information about ways of making a suggestion, see entry at ↑ Suggestions.
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Useful english dictionary. 2012.

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