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English Grammar in Use – Unit 29: “May” or “Might”

  • English Grammar Class
  • Coursebook: English Grammar in Use
  • Unit: 29
  • Topic: Modal Auxiliary Verbs: “May” or “Might”

Part A:

Study this example situation:
You are looking for Ben. Nobody is sure where he is/ but you get some suggestions.

Where is Ben?

He may be in his office. (=perhaps he is in his office)

He might be having lunch. (=perhaps he is having lunch)

Ask Ann. She might know (=perhaps she knows)

We use may or might to say that something is possible. Usually you can use may or might so you can say:
It may be true. or it might be true. (= perhaps it is t rue)
She might know. or She may know.
The negative forms are may not and might not (or mightn’t):
It may not be true. (=perhaps it isn’t true)
She might not work here any more. (=perhaps she doesn1t work here)


Part B:

For the past we use may have (done) or might have (done):
A: I wonder why Kate didn’t answer her phone.
B: She may have been asleep. (=perhaps she was asleep)
A: I can’t find my phone anywhere.
B: You might have Left it at work. (=perhaps you left it at work)
A: Why wasn’t Amy at the meeting yesterday?
B: She might not have known about it. (=perhaps she didn1t know)
A: I wonder why David was in such a bad mood yesterday.
B: He may not have been feeling well. (= perhaps he wasn1t feeling well)


Part C:

Could is similar to may and might:
It’s a strange story, but it could be true. (= it is possible t hat ifs t rue)
You could have Left your phone at work. (= it’s possible t hat you left it there)
But couldn’t (negative) is different from may not and might not. Compare:
Sarah couldn’t have got my message. Otherwise she would have replied.
(= it is not possible t hat she got my message)
I wonder why Sarah hasn’t replied to my message. I suppose she might not have got it.
(= it’s possible that she didn’t get it – so perhaps she did, perhaps she didn’t)

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