How To Use ‘Maybe’ VS ‘May be’ Correctly

How To Use ‘Maybe’ VS ‘May be’ Correctly

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In this blog post, we will learn the simple ways to know how to use ‘maybe’ and ‘may be’ correctly. The correctness of use for ‘maybe’ vs ‘may be’ may be not discernible verbally but impacts the correctness of our written sentences. Using the correct term, whether ‘maybe’ or ‘may be’ impacts the effectiveness of our communication. Learn more on how to use ‘maybe’ vs ‘may be’ correctly below by first understanding the origin of the problem.

Usually, most Malaysians are not even aware that there is a difference between ‘maybe’ and ‘may be’. For those who lack reading quality materials, the use of either doesn’t make any difference. In fact, some assume that one or the other is a typo, depending on which they’re more familiar with. An awareness that there exists a different meaning between the two is the first step to know how to use ‘maybe’ vs ‘may be’ correctly.

Secondly, we must understand that ‘maybe’ is an adverb, which means it alters the verb ‘be’. Consequently, we see similarities in the meaning of ‘maybe’ with the words ‘possibly’, or ‘potentially’, where both words have the suffix -ly to indicate that they’re both adverbs. On the other hand, ‘may be’ are two separate words where both are verbs. Hence, ‘may be’ is similar to that of ‘could be’ or ‘might be’.

Let’s go through some examples now to cement this understanding.

Use ‘Maybe’ To Express Doubt

Maybe I’m wrong.
Another way to express the sentence above is by using, ‘I’m potentially wrong.’ Note that the word ‘maybe’ can be interchangeable with ‘possibly’, ‘potentially’, or ‘perhaps’ (perhaps is an adverb) to express doubt.

The Bahasa Melayu translation for the above example is: ‘Mungkin saya salah.’ As an adverb, the word ‘mungkin‘ describes an uncertainty that classifies the word ‘mungkin‘ as ‘kata keterangan tak tentu‘.

Whereas the sentence ‘I may be wrong’ can be expressed as ‘There’s potential that I can be wrong.’ This alters its translation to: ‘Ada kemungkinan saya yang salah.’

You Can Use ‘Maybe’ To Express A Suggestion

We will leave, maybe at 4 pm.
Another way to express the sentence above is by using, ‘We will leave, possibly at 4 pm.’ Note that the word ‘maybe’ can be interchangeable with ‘ possibly’, ‘potentially’, or ‘perhaps’ (perhaps is an adverb) without having to alter the structure of the sentence.

Another way to check if we used ‘maybe’ and ‘may be’ correctly is by checking its Bahasa Melayu translation: ‘Kita akan balik, mungkin pada pukul 4 petang.’ As an adverb, the word ‘mungkin‘ describes an uncertainty that classifies the word ‘mungkin‘ as ‘kata keterangan tak tentu‘.

If we were to express the same sentence using ‘may be’, the correct translation will be: ‘Kita berkemungkinan balik pada pukul 4 petang.’ This defies the structure of the original sentence which was ‘We will leave, maybe at 4 pm.’

‘May be’ Is A Verb Phrase

I may be indecisive right now.
Another way to express the sentence above is, ‘I might be indecisive right now.’ Note that the words ‘may be’ are interchangeable with ‘might be’ or ‘could be’ without having to alter the structure of the sentence.

Another way to check if we used ‘maybe’ and ‘may be’ correctly is by checking its Bahasa Melayu translation: ‘Ada kemungkinan saya tidak dapat membuat keputusan sekarang.’ Do note that the words ‘ada kemungkinan‘ also carries the same meaning as ‘berkemungkinan‘ which classifies the word as verb phrase or ‘frasa kerja‘.

Whereas the sentence ‘Maybe I’m indecisive right now’ carries the meaning ‘Agaknya saya tak dapat membuat keputusan sekarang‘ which expresses doubt, ‘Ada kemungkinan saya tidak dapat membuat keputusan sekarang‘ expresses possibility.

Use ‘May Be’ To Express Possibility

She may be on her way.
Another way to express the sentence above is, ‘She could be on her way.’ Note that the words ‘may be’ are interchangeable with ‘might be’ or ‘could be’ without having to alter the structure of the sentence.

Another way to check if we used ‘maybe’ and ‘may be’ correctly is by changing its spelling and testing it out with their possible interchangeable words. If we changed the example to ‘She maybe on her way which should jive with ‘She possibly on her way‘, we would realise that the structure of the sentence is wrong and not to mention its grammar.

The example above carries the meaning of : ‘Ada kemungkinan dia dalam perjalanan.’ Which expresses possibility instead of doubt as in ‘Entah-entah dia dalam perjalanan‘ for ‘Maybe she’s on her way.’

Conclusion

Being aware that ‘maybe’ is a Kata Keterangan Tak Tentu is vital in ensuring we only use ‘maybe’ to express its meaning. Furthermore, we would have more clarity in understanding that the equivalent to ‘maybe’ is ‘agaknya‘, ‘jangan-jangan’, and ‘entah-entah‘ (which expresses doubt) besides the usual ‘mungkin‘. On the other hand, ‘may be’ is a verb phrase as it consists of two verbs. This can be more clearly understood if we see that ‘may be’ carries the meaning of ‘ada kemungkinan‘ or berkemungkinan‘.

Jangan-jangan dia sudah tahu. (expresses doubt, use ‘maybe’). Maybe she already knows.
Mungkin dia sudah tahu. (expresses possibility, use ‘may be’). It may be that she already knows.

I hope my explanation is clear and that you enjoyed learning from this blog post. You may find more posts like this below:

How to use ‘Affect’ and ‘Effect’ correctly
How to use ‘Disrupt’ and ‘Interrupt’ correctly

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