may and might: permission

  • Asking for permission
      May and might can be used to ask for permission. They are more formal than can and could. Might is very polite and formal, and is not common.
      May I put the TV on ? I wonder if I might have a little more cheese?
  • Giving and refusing permission
      May is used to give permission. May not is used to refuse permission, and to forbid.
      ‘May I put the TV on?’ ‘Yes, of course you may ‘
      Students may not use the staff car park.
      These are rather formal. In informal language, we prefer can and can’t.
  • Talking about permission
    We do not usually use may and might to talk about permission which has already been given or refused. Instead, we use can, could or be allowed to.
      These days, children can do what they like.
      (NOT . . . may do . . .)
      I could read what I liked when I was a child.
      (NOT I might . . .)