Footnotes Grammar

Maybe / May be

Maybe is a common adverb in English. It is often mixed up with the modal may.

For example

Maybe it’ll rain tomorrow.

It may be rainy tomorrow.

Maybe he’ll go to the party.

He may be at the party.

 

You can see that maybe is used in casual sentences and it is found at the beginning of a sentence or clause.

Maybe he wants to ask her out.

Maybe you left your bag in the classroom.

 

You can see that may is used in more formal sentences and it is a modal before the verb.

He may be her boyfriend.

He may ask her out soon.

Your bag may be in the classroom.

You may have left the bag in the classroom.

 

Common errors are…
  • Using maybe in front of the verb:

(X) She maybe is late.

(O) Maybe she is late.

  • Using maybe in formal writing:

(X) Maybe I can come to your office tomorrow.

(O) I may be able to come to your office tomorrow.

(O) May I come to your office tomorrow?

  • Using may with two verbs:

We may be move to a new apartment next spring.

She may be not get the job.

 

Practice with these worksheets

Verbs.Maybe.Practice (pdf)

 

Editing: 

 If you are using a computer, use the Find feature (Ctrl+F) to find every maybe. Is it before the subject?  Remember that maybe has the same meaning as perhaps or possibly.

Next, use Find for every may in the paper and check the grammar of the modal. Does it have a verb in base form? Remember that may has the same meaning and grammar rules as might.

 

Teachers: Download a printer-friendly copy of this page and instructor guide.

Verbs.Maybe.Grammar(pdf)

Verbs.Maybe.Practice.Instructor (pdf)

 

This may be easier to understand now.

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