I would like to know how to use them. Are they alike, or just two different words that can be used in the same way?
There is, in fact, no commonly visible (as visible as words can be!) difference. Look at these circular definitions:
Maybe: Perhaps; Possibly.
Perhaps: Used to express uncertainty or possibility.
As you can see, they can all be used in the same way. However, there's a bit of a semantic and informal difference. Maybe is usually used informally, and it is derived from "it may be". It is more often used as a definite (as definite as maybe can be!) answer to a question. Example: "Can I do this?" "Maybe."
Perhaps is more formal, and is most often used to express uncertainty about an outcome or undertaking, and is more often used in response to a possibility (spoken by a second or third person) rather than a request. "Might this work?" "Perhaps."
Possibly is usually used in tandem with a possibility you yourself have said, rather than a possibility someone else has mentioned. Example: "My test could possibly fail."
TL;DR: They mean basically the same thing! You can use them interchangeably, but some work better than others in different situations.
Since the "hap" in "perhaps" means something like "chance, luck, fate," as does the "hap" in "happen" and the "hap" in "happy," I guess I think of "perhaps" as having to do with what might "happen" and "maybe" as having to do with what "may be" so, i.e., already is so.
"Maybe the suitcase is in the car." (It may be the case that the suitcase is in the car.)
"Perhaps the picnic will be rained out." (Through fate -- per haps -- the picnic will be rained out.)
Whether there's historic usage in support of that distinction, I don't know.
Perhaps = per haps = through fate
Maybe = may be = it may be
Maybe and perhaps can be used interchangeably. "Maybe" is more in an informal context. "Perhaps" can be used both in a formal and an informal context.
To make it more clear, let's compare these 2 sentences:
- While writing a report: "Perhaps we will know the cost of the project by tomorrow."
- While talking to a friend: "Maybe I will come tomorrow."
But make sure that you use MAYBE as a single word. To make it more clear:
Maybe : Meaning-> perhaps e.g: Maybe, it will stop raining soon.
May be: Meaning-> possibly e.g: I got wet in the rain and I am feeling tired. May be I will catch a cold. [Here, I am pretty confident that I will catch a cold. Hence, I am using "May be"]
Another possible difference between the two (maybe and perhaps) could be orientation, maybe being more subject-oriented (particular first person singular speaker, thus it's perceived as more colloquial and established as such in usage) while perhaps is more object-oriented (used outwards, in reference to the "objective" world).
- Are you going to the party? Maybe, if my meeting ends on time.
- Perhaps the committee will come to a decision soon.
protected by tchrist♦ Sep 16 '17 at 12:25
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