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!





06/26/2016 9:59am

Well! It's so clear now
Thanks a lot

06/27/2016 1:31am

Hello Lama!

I am so glad that I was able to help out! And thank you for reading and paying attention to me, haha.:)

If you ever have a question, you are invited to post your queries here and I will do my best to answer them for you!

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