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The Verb - May

The Verb - May

 

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Verb – May

 

 

Hello! In this lesson we will learn to use the modal verb "may".  In previous lessons, we have learned to use the modal verbs "can, could, will, would," and "should".

The modal verb "may" is similar to these verbs because its conjugation does not change. It is always "may".

We use the modal verb "may" in several different ways. A common way of using it is to express a possibility. For example, we might say "Tomorrow it may rain.". We are not sure that it will rain tomorrow, but rain is a possibility.

The modal verb "may" is used to ask and grant permission. For example, a child might ask "May I watch TV?" and the parent might answer "Yes, you may." or "Yes, you may watch TV.", or "No, you may not watch TV.", or "No, you may not. Your homework is not finished.".

The modal verb "may" is sometimes used to express a contingency or condition. For example, a parent might say to a child "Yes, I may be old, but you are not going to a party at 10 p.m.", in which even being reminded of his condition of being old will not change this parent's mind., or the similar "All the other kids may be going to the party, but you are not going.".

Now that we see that the formation of the modal verb is simple, and we have an idea of how to use the modal verb "may", we will hear it used in a dialog.

Jennifer:  May I use your computer?

David:  Yes, you may. Is yours broken?

Jennifer: It may be. The monitor may be broken. I may take it to the repair shop tomorrow.

David: It may rain tomorrow.

Jennifer:  It may rain? May I use your car tomorrow?

David:  I may need to drive one of the visitors to the airport.

Jennifer:  Are they leaving?

David: No, but one of them may go on a short trip.

Now that we have heard the dialog, let us pay closer attention to the sentences.

Jennifer starts the conversation by asking "May I use your computer?". In this circumstance, Jennifer is using the modal verb "may" to ask permission to use David's computer.

David uses the modal verb "may" in the same way to grant permission by saying "Yes, you may. Is yours broken?". He might also have asked "Is your computer broken?".

In the following group of sentences, both Jennifer and David use the modal verb "may" to express possibility. Jennifer says "It may be. The monitor may be broken. I may take it to the repair shop tomorrow.". In this group of sentences, Jennifer means that it is possible that the computer is broken. It is possible that the monitor is broken. And it is possible that she will take the computer to the repair shop tomorrow.

David continues using the modal verb "May" to express possibility when he says in his next statement "It may rain tomorrow.", which means that rain is possible tomorrow.

Jennifer repeats David's statement. "It may rain tomorrow?", asking about  the possibility of rain. Then Jennifer uses the modal verb "may" to ask permission. Jennifer asks "May I use your car tomorrow?".

David answers "I may need to drive one of the visitors to the airport.". In this sentence, David uses the modal verb "may" to express a possibility. It is possible that he will drive one of the visitors to the airport.  

When Jennifer asks if they are leaving "Are they leaving?", David answers "No, but one of them may go on a short trip.". David again uses the modal verb "may" to express a possibility. It is possible that one of the visitors will go on a short trip.

Now that we have examined the sentences, we will listen to the dialog again. Listen for the various uses of the modal verb "may". Listen as it is used to ask permission and to express possibility.

Jennifer:  May I use your computer?

David:  Yes, you may. Is yours broken?

Jennifer: It may be. The monitor may be broken. I may take it to the repair shop tomorrow.

David: It may rain tomorrow.

Jennifer:  It may rain? May I use your car tomorrow?

David:  I may need to drive one of the visitors to the airport.

Jennifer:  Are they leaving?

David: No, but one of them may go on a short trip.

Very good! Now you know a polite way to ask permission and you know several ways of expressing possibilities. Perhaps now you will go to your English conversation partners and ask "May we speak English?"