Hello English-learners,

Remember the differences between:
*maybe (adverb)
*may be (modal + verb)

Much of the confusion between 'maybe' and 'may be' exists because both terms have a similar meaning, as they both explain'the level of 'possibility of something happening'.

'Maybe' is an adverb, which means 'perhaps' or 'possibly' and signifies that something will possibly happen.

'May be” is a verb. Where 'may' is the modal verb (auxiliary verb) and 'be' is either the main verb, or the main auxiliary verb of the present or present perfect continuous tenses, so it is followed by '____ing' and may take the form 'has/have been ____ing'.

With this in mind, we are able to distinguish between the two terms by their position in a sentence. 

Since 'maybe' is an adverb, it is usually placed before the subject but can be placed anywhere in the sentence. 

Maybe it will rain tomorrow.
It will rain tomorrow maybe.

Because 'maybe' is an adverb, and adverbs modify verbs, when we use 'maybe', there will always be a main verb in the sentence that it describes. So, one way to test if you should use 'maybe' or 'may be' is to identify a main verb.

Maybe it will rain tomorrow. 
I will rain tomorrow maybe.
-"will rain" is the main verb in both of these sentences

Since 'may be' is a verb, it is always placed after the subject:

She may be coming to the party this Friday. 
-"She" is the subject and "may be" is its verb

The movies may be starting at 9:00pm. Let's check the movie times.
-"The movies" is the subject and "may be starting" is its verb

It can be followed by ____ing or by an ADJECTIVE.

She may be angry at me. ("angry" is an adjective)

From the above examples, you might notice that 'maybe' and 'may be' can be used to represent the same idea or meaning. Therefore, we can substitute each terms for the other - but YOU MUST RE-ARRANGE PARTS OF THE SENTENCE:
She may be cooking dinner tonight. 
Maybe, she is cooking dinner tonight.
She is cooking dinner tonight maybe

They may be arriving at 7:00pm
They are arriving, maybe, at 7:00pm.

Maybe, they are arriving at 7:00pm.

She may be angry at me.
Maybe, she is angry at me. 

Two More tips...

Remember that:

  • you can substitute 'perhaps' to test for 'maybe'
Maybe, he feels cold.
Perhaps, he will pass the test. (this makes sense)

He may be cold.
He perhaps cold. -THIS IS INCORRECT - 'perhaps' cannot be substituted for 'may be'

  • If there is already a main verb, then you will be using the adverb 'maybe'

He _____ cold. (here, there is no verb)
He may be cold.

Maybe, he feels cold. (here, "feels" is the main verb, so we use the adverb 'maybe')

All the best...and if you have any questions, you are welcome to post them below!

Happy English!



Hello everyone, 

Recently, a subscriber to my Youtube Channel offered a discussion about the differences between could and might and could not and might not.

Both of these can describe possibility, however, may and might indicate a possibility that seems more likely to happen. If I had to roughly pinpoint it, I would say that: 
*May / might indicate more of a 'probability', something more likely to happen 60-70%
*Can / could indicate a possibility of about 50-60%

Of course, these are only estimates. 

For example:

I may be home early. (COMMON)
I might be home early. (VERY COMMON)
I could be home early. (not very common - but not rare either)

I can be home early. (this means 'ability' and not possibility - it can mean possibility, but it is not very commonly used in that way


Avoid using could not for possibilities.

Could not is sometimes used for possibilities, but it sounds awkward sometimes. 

I may not be home in time for dinner tonight. (COMMON)

I might not be home in time for dinner tonight.

I could not be home in time for dinner tonight. 
(NOT COMMON for possibility - this sounds formal and old - it also sounds like they are talking about a past ability that could not be done).

I can not be home in time for dinner tonight. 
(this is ability only)

Could not is used for (negative) past abilities, but rarely for (negative) possibilities in the present

Watch my Youtube video on Can and Could here: 

Watch my Youtube video on May and Might here: 

( ;)