May be or maybe?

Ask the wise old owl

Wise Old Owl

What’s the difference between may be and maybe?

Adding the space changes the meaning, so you need to use the right one to suit what you want to say.

A good way to remember it is that “may be” is similar to “might be”. If you write “might be”, you need two words, so the correct choice also has two words – “may be”.

It may be cold tonight. Take a jacket with you.
It might be cold tonight. Take a jacket with you.

In conversational speech, may and might are usually used interchangeably. If you want to know the difference, may is more probable than might, and might is the past tense of may.

If you can replace maybe or may be with “perhaps” in your sentence, “maybe” is the right option.

There have been too many emails about this subject today. Maybe it would be better if we set up a meeting about it.

You could also say “perhaps it would be better”, so “maybe” is the right choice.

I may be late home tonight. Would you like me to bring home a take-away?
You can’t say “I perhaps be late home”, but you can say “I might be late home”.

Maybe many of you knew these things already. However, the explanation and examples may be useful for those who didn’t!

More articles in this series

If you want to read the rest of the articles in this series, go to the wise old owl’s main page.

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