Maybe or May Be? Learn the difference!

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Maybe or may be – what’s the difference? A student asked me when we use each one in English. Great question!

They both have a similar meaning – talking about possibility – something might happen, or it might not.

But we use maybe (one word) as an adverb to help the main verb of the sentence, whereas may be (two words) is the main verb of the sentence. Let me show you some examples:

I can say, “Maybe I’ll go to the gym later.” The main verb phrase is “will go,” and maybe means that my action of going to the gym is possible, but not certain.

If I’m stuck in unusually bad traffic, I could say “There may be an accident up ahead.” Here, the main verb phrase is “may be,” meaning there may exist an accident.

Maybe or May Be? Learn the difference! Espresso English

There may be an accident up ahead.

Another example, let’s say my husband is working late and he calls me to say, “Maybe I’ll get a pizza on the way home from work.” (main verb – “will get,” and maybe is an adverb of possibility)

But I respond, “The pizza place may be closed by the time you finish work!” (“may be” is the main verb phrase).

In everyday spoken English, at least in American English, we tend to use “might be” instead of “may be” with the same meaning that it’s possible:

  • The pizza place might be closed.
  • There might be an accident.

Now you know the difference between maybe (adverb) and may be (main verb phrase)!

More examples of “maybe”:

  • Maybe we can go for a walk in the park this afternoon.
  • I’m not sure if I can make it to the party, but maybe I’ll drop by later.
  • Maybe the solution to the problem lies in trying a different approach.
  • Do you think it will rain tomorrow? Maybe we should check the weather forecast.
  • She hesitated for a moment and then said, “Maybe we should consider a different plan.”

More examples of “may be”:

  • There may be some confusion regarding the meeting time.
  • His decision to resign may be influenced by personal reasons.
  • The missing document may be in the office, but I need to double-check.
  • There may be a delay in the delivery of the package because of the holiday season.
  • The problem on the website may be related to a recent software update.

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