IELTS Writing: Might or May

One of my students asked me the difference between "might" and "may" yesterday. I assume that many of you might have the same question about use of synonyms. Here is a quicky explanation.

Might and may both express the idea of possibility. Nowadays, might and may express equal levels of possibility. Some people insist that you should use may (present tense) when talking about a current situation and might (past tense) when talking about an event that happened in the past. For example:

  • may go home early if I’m tired. (present tense)
  • He might have visited Italy before settling in Nuremberg. (past tense)

In practice, this distinction is rarely made today and the two words are generally interchangeable.
However, may can be used for permission. For example:

  • May I go to the concert?

(This means the same as "Am I allowed to go to the concert?")

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