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May, might, could

May Might Could.png
Vocabulary - weather

May, might, could

These are another type of modal verb. They are added to other verbs to change the meaning. 

'Might', 'could' and 'may' change the possibility of a future event happening. 

This is from the 'going to...' lesson. We will add 'might', 'could' and 'may'.

Chance of doing 'verb'





I will eat pizza.

I am going to eat pizza.

I may eat pizza.

I might / could eat pizza.





I might / could not eat pizza.

I may not eat pizza.

I am not going to eat pizza.

I will not eat pizza.

Advanced explanation

Adding the words 'might / could / may' make completing the verb in the future less likely. There is no rule for how likely it is but it is approximately between 70-60% if the sentence is positive and 30% - 40% for a negative sentence. 

May, might, could - examples

Subject + might / could / may + present form verb

might meaning

The weather might rain.

It might rain.

We use the subject 'it' when talking about the weather.

It might rain tomorrow.

could meaning

It could snow.

It could snow next week.

Subject + might / could / may + present form verb + adjective

It may be sunny

It may be sunny.

It may be sunny later.

might meaning

It might be windy.

It might be windy tonight.

could meaning

It could be cloudy.

It could be cloudy tomorrow.

Subject + might / could / may + present form verb + noun / noun phrase

might meaning

It might be a newspaper.

Here you are guessing what something might be.

I may take a

I may take an umbrella

might meaning

I might study Spanish tomorrow afternoon.

Subject + might / could / may + present form verb + noun / noun phrase + purpose chunk

might meaning
might meaning

We might go to the cinema to watch a film.

could meaning
could meaning

We could buy tickets to see a football match.

'Could' or 'might' or 'may'?

What's the difference?

might meaning

It might rain.



could meaning

It could rain.

  • Rain

  • Sunny

  • Cloudy

  • Windy

  • Snow

It may rain

It may rain.

More likely than 'might' or 'could'.

might meaning

You have two possibilities: it will rain / it won't rain. You are saying that it is about 60% likely to rain. 

It might rain.

could meaning

You are communicating that there are many possibilities (sunny, windy, cloudy, rain) but it is about 60% likely to rain.

It could rain.

might meaning

You are communicating two possibilities: you will eat pizza / you won't eat pizza. You are saying that it is about 60% likely you will eat pizza.

I might eat pizza.

could meaning

You are communicating that there are lots of things you could eat (pizza, hamburger, curry, spaghetti). It is 60% likely you will eat pizza. 

I could eat pizza.

Could, might, may - exercises

Two options: wear a coat or don't wear a coat.

I might wear

I might wear a coat.

Tomorrow I might wear a coat.


I / coat

might meaning

I might go to the bank.


We would use 'might' here because the two options are: go the bank, or don't go. It is unusual to have a bank as one of many options. 

I / bank

could meaning

We could go to the cinema.


We would use 'could' here because the cinema is one of many options (cinema, museum, cafe). 

We / cinema

could meaning

How many possibilities? More than two


We could stay in this hotel.

We / this hotel

might meaning

How many possibilities? Two: get-up early or do not get-up early


She might get up early.

She / early

might meaning

How many possibilities? Two: take the underground or do not take the underground


He might take the underground.

He / underground

Might, may, could - Negative

Subject + might / could / may + not + present form verb

It might not It could not It may not

On Wednesday I might not wear a t-shirt.

On Thursday I may not go to the park

On Friday I might not take my umbrella

On Sunday I may not wear a jumper

Could not

This is difficult because is the negative of one of many options. Naturally we would say the positive option. 


It could not rain.


It could be sunny.

We can use the negative in conversation to say that the possibility could not happen:

A: What do you want to do today?

B: We should stay at home. It could rain.

A: It could not rain.

B: If it doesn't rain, we could go to the park. 

"It could not rain." means that one of the possibilities is that it will not rain. It is said in response to a positive suggestion. 

Could / Might - Questions?

Might / Could + subject + present form verb


'May + subject + present tense verb' is used to ask permission.

might meaning

Might it be windy?

You're asking the person about the 'wind'. There are two possibilities: 'wind' or 'no wind'.

could meaning

Could it be windy?

You're asking the person about the 'wind' but it is one of many possibilities: 'wind', 'sun', 'rain', 'cloud'. 

could meaning

Could it snow on Christmas Day?

Could / snow

On Christmas Day


Tom: Where should we go tomorrow?

Jane: We could go to a theme park.

Billy: I love theme parks. 

Kate: It could rain tomorrow. We could go to the Victoria and Albert museum.

Tom: It could not rain but we should go there. 

Jane: What do you want for dinner?

Tom: I want to have a hamburger.

Billy: We could go to Borough Market. 

Kate: It may be busy there. How about Soho?

Tom: That's a good idea.  

Using it with previous learning

I want to go because it might be interesting

It might be interesting so I want to go

Because it may rain tomorrow, we should go here today.


It may rain tomorrow so we should go here today.  

I'm going to have pizza tonight so might not have pizza for lunch

We are going to a theme park tomorrow because it may be sunny.

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