May Be or Maybe?

What Is the Difference between "May Be" and "Maybe"?

"May be" and "may be" are easy to confuse because they both express the idea of possibility and they sound extremely similar. However, they are different. So, that space is important.
  • "Maybe" means perhaps or possibly.
    • Maybe it's true. correct tick
  • "May be" means might be or could be.
    • I may be at the meeting. correct tick
maybe or may be?


"Maybe" (one word) can be substituted with "perhaps" or "possibly." ("Maybe" is an adverb.) Try substituting the "maybe" in the examples below with "perhaps."

Example sentences with "maybe":
  • Maybe this world is another planet's hell. correct tick (Writer Aldous Huxley)
  • Courage is saying, "Maybe what I'm doing isn't working; maybe I should try something else." correct tick (Author Anna Lappe)
  • Maybe you have to know darkness before you can appreciate the light. correct tick (Author Madeleine L'engle)
  • There are a lot of people who can't write and maybe shouldn't write. correct tick (Author Sarah Hepola)

May Be

"May be" (two words) is similar to "might be," "could be," or "would be." (The word "may" in "may be" is a modal auxiliary verb.) Try substituting the "may be" in the examples below with "might be."

Example sentences with "may be":
  • Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking. correct tick(Journalist H. L. Mencken)
  • If two men agree on everything, you may be sure that one of them is doing the thinking. correct tick (President Lyndon B. Johnson)
  • The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool. correct tick (Author Jane Wagner)

Use "maybe" if "perhaps" works.

Like "maybe," the word "perhaps" is an adverb. If it works perfectly in your sentence, then you should be using "maybe." If "perhaps" does not work well (i.e., you feel there is a word missing), then you should be using "may be." For example:
  • If you trust Google more than your doctor, then maybe it's time to switch doctors. correct tick
  • (The clause "then perhaps it's time to switch doctors" works works perfectly. Therefore, "maybe" is okay.)
  • Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery. correct tick (Dr. Joyce Brothers )
  • ("Listening, not imitation, perhaps the sincerest form of flattery" sounds wrong. Therefore, "may be" is okay. "Maybe" would be wrong.)
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.