Is it possible to use may and might in the same sentence to describe a potential outcome?

For example:

While Sara may recognise the car, Paul might not.

  • 2
    What are you actually trying to say? What do you think those would mean used that way? What other words do you know which “cannot appear in the same sentence”? Star light, star bright, / The first star I see tonight; / I wish I may, I wish I might, / Have the wish I wish tonight.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:39
  • What @tchrist said. Also, there are subtle shades of differences in meaning: "I may be interested in that film, though I might not go see it."
    – Robusto
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:51
  • 2
    Hm, so you are saying that it is fine for it to be like that? In this structure I am presuming that it means Sara has more of a possibility of recognising the car but Paul is less likely to...but, if "may" is used when something is more likely to happen then would it not make sense to say that "Paul may not" ? As you can see I'm very confused
    – Leno
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 10:37
  • 1
    Remember that might is the preterite form of may. In English, especially in English auxiliary verbs, the past tense can be used to denote remote possibilities or contra-factory statements. In your sentence, there is a higher probability that Sara will recognize the car than that Paul will not, as denoted by dichotomy between may and might.
    – Anonym
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


They both indicate that something is possible, but something that may happen is more likely than something that might happen.

So you may go to a party if Matt Damon invites you, but you might go to a party if your least favorite cousin invites you.

As stated by @ Anonym, might is the past tense of may. So you have to use might when you are referring to the past.

For example, even if it's likely that you went to a party last night, I shouldn't say, “you may have gone to the party’; I would say, “you might have gone to the party.”

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