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?")

And there is a distinction between may have and might have in certain contexts. If the truth of a situation is still not known at the time of speaking or writing, either of the two is acceptable:

  • By the time you read this, he may have made his decision.
  • I think that comment might have offended some people.

If the event or situation referred to did not in fact occur, it's better to use might have:

  • The draw against Italy might have been a turning point, but it didn't turn out like that.

Note: During your IELTS Writing preparation, any words use that confuses you, just simply Google it. Even the words that you used them thousands of time before might be inappropriate.

2 Comments IELTS Writing: Might or May

  1. Smita

    Hello Jefffrey,
    How to find collection of different types words for different catagories like music, health, food etc

    Thanks for your help.

    1. Jeffrey

      I assume you mean topic related vocabulary. There might be some books about those vocabulary collation by categories, but the key is not about how large your bank of vocabulary is, it is about do you know how and when to use them accurately.

      Collocation is everywhere, from the book you read, newspaper, internet. I mean, truly, they are everywhere. I would recommend you write them down in your notepad.


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