1. I think he may not have noticed me.

When one wants to change 1 to the past tense, is it obligatory to change the tense of "may" into "might"?

2. I thought he might not have noticed me.

Or should "may" be preserved as such?

3. I thought he may not have noticed me.

Which is the sentence to choose?
Regular Member556
"Might" is the correct one.
Veteran Member6,387
Retired Moderator: A moderator who has retired.
For many people, both "may have" and "might have" are correct and used for the past. There's more doubt in "might have."

Things are a bit complicated and controversial. One of the points of view is here:

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http://www.orlapubs.com/AL/L39.html

potential MAY (HAVE)

used for possibilities in non-past time; may have is used for possibility in any past time up till now; e.g.
"They may (have) put it there."
One cannot say
"It may have survived"
when it is known that it didn't survive or hasn't survived!

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conditional-potential
MIGHT (HAVE) (past) past-posterior

used for doubtful possibilities in past time; e.g.
"They might have put it there yesterday";
"They said that it might arrive on time."

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Veteran Member11,673
Proficient Speaker: Users in this role are known to maintain an excellent grasp of the English language. You can only be promoted to this role by the Englishforums team.
Teleostomi1. I think he may not have noticed me.

When one wants to change 1 to the past tense, is it obligatory to change the tense of "may" into "might"?

2. I thought he might not have noticed me.

Or should "may" be preserved as such?

3. I thought he may not have noticed me.

Which is the sentence to choose?

"May (not) have" is just fine there.
Senior Member3,149
Do you mean that after the verb "thought", which is used in past, it's fine to use "may"? I thought he may not have noticed me? But what about sequence of tenses? Or I don't get something? Emotion: tongue tied
Retired Moderator: A moderator who has retired.
"may" is a modal verb
as such, it's less related to tense than to mode/modality
Proficient Speaker: Users in this role are known to maintain an excellent grasp of the English language. You can only be promoted to this role by the Englishforums team.
Thanks to all concerned for your help!

Marius, you inspired me! I have another question related to your post. I hope I'm not bothering you too much, but I'd be very happy if you would take a look at it.
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