Dear all,

Kindly see the following sentences. I have seen these sentences in a grammar book. It says in the first sentence the presence of "may" shows "possibility" and in the second sentence its presence shows "permission". But here I am not sure about the meaning of "may" in the second sentence. I feel that its meaning is "perhaps I play the piano". I would like to get your opinion on this.

1) I may attend the meeting this weekend.(possibility)

2) I may play the piano.(permission)

Thank you.


For both sentences, both meanings are possible. The context will normally make the intended meaning clear.



In the United States, and I expect elsewhere as well, speakers of English think first only of "possibility", i.e., "maybe", when they hear "may". The only common exception is when someone uses the first-person question "May I ...?" to ask permission to do something. The use of "I may ..." in the meaning "I have been given permission to ..." is so uncommon as to be nearly non-existent. For that meaning there would have to be an obvious permission-giving scenario established somewhere in the sentence: The teacher said that I may leave class early today because of a dental appointment.

I am completely baffled by the claim that sentence 1) and sentence 2) illustrate different uses of "may". Emotion: surprise I can't imagine where they got that idea.


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CJ Sir, thanks a lot for this valuable information.