Maybe or May Be?

Maybe or May Be?

“It may be coincidence that the decline of newspapers has corresponded with the rise of social media. Or maybe not.”

Ryan Holmes, founder and CEO of Hootsuite

Read this post to make sure you know and remember the difference between maybe and may be. Do the exercise at the bottom of the page to check yourself. Enjoy! 😉

Definitely maybe

Maybe is an adverb which we can use to make a comment on the whole sentence or clause (1) or before a number (2).

Maybe I’ll do it. (1)

Hundreds – maybe thousands – were shocked. (2)

The adverb maybe means perhaps: Maybe we can go there together. = Perhaps, we can go there together.

Note that although maybe and perhaps have the same meaning, maybe is used mainly in spoken English and informal writing, while perhaps is more typical of formal English.

Maybe there is something we can do about it.

There are, perhaps, some things which we can do.

May be

The phrase may be consists of the modal verb may and the verb to be (which of course can’t be used with to after may). May be has the same meaning as could be:

I may be wrong.

We may be able to do it by the end of the day.

Note that both the adverb maybe and the phrase may be are similar in meaning, but very different in their grammar.

Maybe I can help you. (= Perhaps, I can help you.)

I may be able to help you. (= It’s possible that I can help you.)


Complete the sentences with may be or maybe. The answer key is given below the image.

  1. In an earthquake your house ___ badly damaged.
  2. It ___ an unfulfilled dream.
  3. Now, ___ I haven’t explained myself very well.
  4. There ____ another chance to take the exam.
  5. At weekends she would drive into Oxford, do the shopping, and ___ visit a few friends.
  6. It ___ a good idea to start saving money.
  7. We ___ coming to your place later today.
  8. ___ you could do a little job for me?
  9. The whole process takes ___ ten or fifteen minutes.
  10. This subject ___ easy for you to understand.
Maybe it’s time to start with a clean slate…

Answer key:

  1. may be 2. may be 3. maybe 4. may be 5. maybe 6. may be 7. may be 8. Maybe 9. maybe 10. may be

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