Commonly Confused Word Pairs: May/might

April 16, 2009: Issue 285

May is a verb meaning to have permission.
present tense: May I ask a quick favor?
past tense: She said I might go with them.

Confusion arises because might is also a verbal auxiliary that expresses possibility:
I might be guilty of overexplaining this issue.

Pop culture can help you remember the distinction. Think of the kids’ game Mother, May I? and the band (or the movie, if that’s more your speed) They Might Be Giants.

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