Among the modal verbs, may is the most polite one to use.

The modal verb may is used to express the following ideas.


  • A gas leak may have caused the explosion. (Probability)
  • Don’t go near! It may be poisonous. (Possibility)
  • May I have another lollipop? (Asking for permission); Yes, you may. (Giving permission)
  • May you live to the ripe old age of 100. (Wish/Hope)
  • Carl, may I borrow that red cap of yours? (Polite request/Question)
  • It may be wise to stop seeing him forever. (Suggestion)


Unlike the modal verb may, might has a contraction in mightn’t. This negative form of might can be used in asking a question
  • Mightn’t that hairy animal be a monkey?

The modal verb might is used to express the following ideas.


  • She said he might go to Hell for what he did to her. (Past tense of may)
  • I might have stepped on the banana skin and fallen if I had not noticed it. (Possibility)
  • Might I ask why you two are not speaking to each other? (Permission)
  • You might like to have a look at my two new pets – a turtle and a guinea pig. (Suggestion)
  • You might at least try to look like you were enjoying the soup. (Annoyance)
  • If you were in a desert, you might be caught in a sandstorm. (Condition)