Like most of my posts, this one originated from a conversation. I said might or may (I forget which now), stopped and tried to correct myself. But then I realized that I might have been correct the first time. So I went on an expedition to find the meaning of might and may and am now reporting the results to you. Enjoy!
May is present tense. It’s typically meant for “a possibility” of something happening. Yes, it is also the name of a month and yes, it is frequently used when asking permission to do something (such as “May I go to the bathroom?” instead of “Can I go to the bathroom?” Can is typically considered in accordance to ability). However, since today we’re looking at may vs. might, we’re going to focus on the “probability” portion.
In present tense, may is typically viewed as being more “likely” to occur than might. So let’s say I wanted to go to the mall. If I said “I may go to the mall today,” that could be around a 75% chance of me going. Odds are, I’m going to the mall that day.
Might on the other hand, has a lesser probability. Taking the above sentence and switching it to might, I would have “I might go to the mall today.” Now, the chances of me going may drop down to about 25%. 😉 Mind you these aren’t statistical FACTS of might and may, but rather some numbers to give you an idea.
Remember how I said may is present tense? Well might can be present OR past tense. Don’t you hate when things like that happen? The real nitty-gritty term for this past tense verb is an auxiliary verb or in simpler terms–a “helper” verb. Let’s look at a past tense example here. “She might have gone to the mall yesterday, if she had more money.” Notice that using might opens the term for speculation. She may have gone. But then again, she may not have gone. If we said, “She WOULD have gone to the mall yesterday, if she had more money,” then we know for a FACT that if she had cash to burn–she would have spent it.
May has a higher chance of occurring than might. But bear in mind that might is a past tense form of may, so try not to get too confused! They are both modals, which means these “helper” verbs are followed by the “base” verb form–such as “I may go” or “I might go.” Other helping verbs are followed by a present or past participle verb (except for “do,” that that’s a post for another time!). Good luck!