May vs. Might

Learn when to use may vs. might with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.
Author:
Publish date:

Q: "I may go to the store." "I might go to the store." Is there a difference between these two sentences? I've always been confused as to when to use "may" and when to use "might"? —Joe A.

(Click here to view our 12 most popular grammar posts.)

A: Both "may" and "might" have the same overall meaning, yes, but both indicate different verb moods. Choosing one over the other will tell readers how likely you are to actually do the action or, as in your question's example, go to the store.

"May" indicates that you are more likely to do something. I may go to the store means I probably will go to the store. "Might" suggests that you are less likely to do something. I might go to the store means it's unlikely that I'll go to the store. So while I may dance the hokey pokey with my daughters tonight (something we do most nights), I might hang up my clean clothes in my closet (something my wife claims I haven't accomplished in five years).

May vs. Might

Although this rule seems pretty cut-and-dried, it has a few exceptions worth noting. According to Garner's Modern American Usage (a bible for all grammar nuts like me), you should never use "may" in a negative hypothetical because the reader could read it to mean the person "does not have permission." For example, saying "I may not go to the store" could be misread as "I am not allowed to go to the store." In this case, you always use "might": I might not go to the store.

Also, and even more confusing, "might" is the past tense of "may." So if the event is in the past, the mood implication doesn't matter and you always use "might." My wife might have gone to the store last night. I might have pulled a hamstring while doing the hokey pokey last week.

Grammar and Mechanics

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

Do You Find an Editor or Agent First?

Do You Find an Editor or Agent First?

It's a common question asked by writers looking to get their first book published: Do you find an editor or agent first? The answer depends on each writer's situation.

writer's digest wd presents

WDU Presents: 7 New WDU Courses, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new WDU courses, a chance at publication, and more!

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

Editor is a very broad term in the publishing industry that can mean a variety of things. Tiffany Yates Martin reveals what a professional editor is and why writers should consider using one.

From Script

How to Find the Right Reader for Feedback, Writing Female Characters and Tapping into Emotionally Authentic Characters (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script Magazine, read film reviews from Tom Stemple, part three of writing female characters, interviews with Free Guy scribes Zak Penn and Matt Lieberman, The Eyes of Tammy Faye screenwriter Abe Sylvia, and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is chasing trends in writing and publishing.

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Author Dawn Secord shares her journey toward self-publishing a picture book featuring her Irish Setter named Bling.

Poetic Forms

Crown of Sonnets: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the crown of sonnets, a form that brings together seven sonnets in a special way.

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (and as a Person)

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (And as a Person)

Reflective writing—or journaling—is a helpful practice in helping understand ourselves, and by extensions, the stories we intend to write. Author Jeanne Baker Guy offers 25 ways reflective writing can help you grow as a writer (and as a person).

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your character know they're being followed.