This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Arslan in Kashmir. He asks:
Is it correct to use “may” and “will” in a single sentence like in "Maybe it will rain today"? The word “may” suggests a possibility while “will” shows certainty. Thank you. -Arslan, Kashmir
Hello Arslan, this is a good question. Here is the answer:
The word “maybe” is an adverb that means possibly but not definitely. It expresses that an action has a chance of happening in the future, as in your example: “Maybe it will rain today.”
“May” and “maybe” are closely connected but they are different parts of speech. The word “may” is a modal verb.
“Will” is also a modal verb. It expresses that something is expected to happen in the future.
You were right to question the use of two modal verbs together. For example, you would not want to say, “It may will rain today.”
But again, “maybe” is an adverb, not a modal. So saying, “Maybe it will rain today” is totally acceptable. Another example that uses both “maybe” and “will” is “Maybe my friends will visit.”
Keep in mind that using the modal “may” or “might” is a more common way to express these kinds of possibilities. For instance, you can say, “It may rain today” or “My friends might visit.”
And lastly, there is another meaning of “will” that does express certainty. For example, if I say, “You will really enjoy this lesson,” it shows that I feel sure of it.
And that’s Ask a Teacher for this week.
I’m Alice Bryant.
Alice Bryant wrote this lesson for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
certainty - n. the state of feeling sure or not having any doubt about something
modal - n. a verb that is used with another verb to express ideas such as possibility, necessity, and permission
lesson - n. an activity that you do in order to learn something