Happy back-from-Labor-Day Day! I had the good fortune to spend the long weekend in Houston with my best friend from college. We ate, we drank, we had a slight Netflix binge, and we were very merry. She’s finishing up her PhD in neuroscience at UT-Houston, and she accepted a postdoc at Vanderbilt, so she’ll be moving to Nashville in a couple of months. She may be one of the smartest people I know.
I know this because she knows the difference between may be and maybe.
Maybe vs. May Be
The most obvious difference between maybe and may be is that maybe is an adverb, which means that it’s modifying a verb/adjective/another adverb, and it means “perhaps” or “potentially”. May be is a verb phrase that implies that something is possible.
The biggest difference is in the part of speech of the phrase. May be will always modify a noun, while maybe modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb.
The meanings of “Charlie may be an idiot” and “Maybe Charlie is an idiot” are similar, but the two phrases are used as different parts of speech, and they need to be distinguished.
So there you have it. Now you’ll never confuse the two again!
Write for fifteen minutes about the possibility of something that happens at a Labor Day cookout. Use may be and maybe appropriately as often as you can. Post your practice in the comments and leave notes for your fellow writers.