maybe and may be - the difference

The Quick Answer
Maybe means perhaps.
May be means might be.

There is often confusion over maybe and may be.

Maybe

Maybe (one word) can be substituted with perhaps or possibly. (Maybe is an adverb.) Try substituting the maybe in these examples with perhaps:
  • Maybe this world is another planet's hell. (Aldous Huxley)
  • Courage is saying, "Maybe what I'm doing isn't working; maybe I should try something else." (Anna Lappe)
  • Maybe you have to know darkness before you can appreciate the light. (Madeleine L'engle)
  • There are a lot of people who can't write and maybe shouldn't write. (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 an auxiliary verb.)

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

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
Glossary of easily confused words Glossary of common errors Glossary of grammatical terms What are nouns? What are verbs?