The modal verb may is one of the most used modal auxiliary verbs in English. Let’s study all the situations where the modal verb may is used and should be used.
Structure: subject + may + main verb
- Riya may be upset with you. Go check on her. (Possibility in the present)
- You may have hurt her feelings by calling her fat. (Possibility in the past)
- The business may get shut down next year. (Possibility in the future)
- May I go out with your sister Jerry? (Permission)
- May I join you guys? (Request)
- May the almighty be with you! (Wish)
- They may let you join the team if you apologize for your mistake. (Conditional sentence)
The most common use of may in English is to talk about the possibility of a situation. We can use may to talk about the possibility of an action in the past, present, and future.
Possibility in the Present
- Riya may be upset with you. Go check on her.
- He may not call you back.
- It may rain today.
- Jenny may be home right now.
Structure: subject + may + V1 (base form)
Possibility in the Past
- You may have hurt her feelings by calling her fat.
- He may have called me. I need to check my phone.
- The fight may have been canceled.
Structure: subject + may + have + V3(past participle)
Possibility in the Future
- Conor may lose the next match.
- The business may get shut down next year.
- He may join us on Sunday.
Structure: subject + may + V1 + future time marker
May is often used to give and take permission. Study the following examples:
- Employee: May I leave the meeting, sir?
- Boss: Yes, you may.
- May I go out with your sister Jerry?
- You may use my car if you want to.
- You may keep the notes after the class.
May is commonly used to make a request. Study the following examples:
- May I borrow your laptop for a day?
- May I join you guys?
- May I come with you on the trip?
May is also used to make a wish. Study the following examples and understand the usage:
- May God bless you!
- May the almighty be with you!
- May you both be always happy!
◼️ Unsolicited advice or suggestion
Structure: You may want to + …
May is often used to give unsolicited advice. Here, the speaker looks very polite while giving advice. The speaker does not try to be more knowledgeable or superior; the speaker wants the receiver to feel respected.
- You may want to consider talking to your partners before hiring these people.
- You may want to try these cheesecakes. These are heavenly.
- You may want to think about their offer before leaving this job.
◼️ Conditional sentences
‘May’ can be used in conditional sentences. study the following examples:
- They may let you join the team if you apologize for your mistake. (Type 1 conditional sentence)
- The guard may not allow you to enter the building if you don’t have the permit card. (Type 1 conditional sentence)
- We may have won the match if it had not rained. (Type 3 conditional sentence)
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