Modal Verbs: may


May with the Indefinite Infinitive:


May is used with the indefinite infinitive to express permission, possibility or probability in the present.


It can also be used to make polite requests.


Examples: You may leave the meeting early if you need to. (permission)


It may rain this afternoon.

(possibility or probability)


May I borrow your pencil, please?

(polite request)



May with the Continuous tenses:


May can be used with continuous tenses to express permission or possibility over a period of time.


Examples: I may be using the conference room all morning. (permission over a period of time)


He may be playing basketball right now.

(possibility over a period of time)



May in negative form:


In negative form, may not is used to indicate that permission is not granted or something is prohibited.


Examples: You may not smoke in this building. (prohibition)


She may not use my computer without my permission. (permission not granted)




May with the Perfect Infinitive:


In the perfect infinitive form, may have is used to express possibility or probability in the past.


Examples: He may have forgotten his keys at home.

 (possibility in the past)


I may have left my phone in the car.

(probability in the past)


It’s important to note that in the past tense, might is used instead of may to express permission or possibility.




May in the Subordinate clauses:


May with the indefinite infinitive can also be used in subordinate clauses to express purpose.


Here are some examples:


I am studying hard so that I may pass the exam.


She saved her money so that she may travel to Europe next summer.


He works long hours so that he may provide for his family.


In all of these examples, may is used with the indefinite infinitive in subordinate clauses to express purpose.


It indicates the reason or goal for an action or situation in the main clause.


In the examples given, may has not lost its meaning, but rather is being used in a different way to express purpose.


When may is used in a subordinate clause to express purpose, it is not indicating permission or possibility, but rather the reason or goal for an action in the main clause.






click here Modal Verbs: may

click here Modal Verbs: could

click here Modal Verbs: can

click here Modal Verbs: ought to

click here Modal Verbs: need

click here Modal Verbs: must

click here Modal Verbs: to be

click here Auxiliary Verbs: shall and will

click here Auxiliary Verbs: should and would

click here Auxiliary and Modal verbs