Commonly Confused Words: May and Might

by | Nov 19, 2015 | Commonly Confused Words, GrammarSpot | 0 comments

I may have to write this blog, but I might end up pretending like it’s not on my to-do list.

See what I did there? If you didn’t, don’t sweat it. The may vs. might issue is one many people don’t even know exists, evidenced by the fact that they use these terms interchangeably. However, the two confused words actually have slightly different meanings. In other words, you may want to pay attention.

The Nitty Gritty

May: Yup, this is probably going to happen. It’s what I am leaning toward.

Might: Well, there is at least a small chance that this could happen.

May

So what’s all the fuss? Both words express the possibility of something happening. But if you want to indicate a slightly stronger possibility, use may.

Examples:

– I may eventually get around to completing this blog.

– You may gain something by reading this.

For this reason, may is also more appropriate when asking permission for something you want to do, such as, “May I have a deadline extension?”

Might

Let’s be honest, a lot of things might happen, as all we need is a little bit of possibility to use this word correctly.

Examples:

– One day, the Cincinnati Bengals might win the Super Bowl and I can die happy.

– I might end up realizing how unhealthy cheese is and stop eating it altogether.

Tense also matters. The word might should be used when speaking about what could have happened in the past.

Examples:

– She might have put off writing the blog in order to watch “Friends” reruns.

– Her editors might have rolled their eyes when listening to her excuses for turning in her blog late.

Still Confused?

Really, this one is not as cut-and-dry as so many other grammar disputes. After all, we are talking about degrees of possibility. As a trick, think of it this way: May indicates likelihood, but might means there is a “mighty” stretch involved (e.g., the Bengals winning a national title, which is essentially a pipe dream).

Keep on Truckin’

Congratulations! Now that you know the difference, this is yet another grammar-ism you can use to point out the errors of co-workers, siblings and friends.

Think you may have a good way to remember how to distinguish these commonly misused words? Let us know in the comments below.

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