Might vs. May

Quantifying the various probabilities and risks is very important in the oil patch. Using the correct words to describe potential situations is also important.

“May” and “might” both indicate possibility or probability, and are often used as synonyms, with “might” suggesting a somewhat lower probability.

Examples:
“You may be right; I may be crazy, but it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.”
(Billy Joel song)
You might want to clean out that microwave; it’s disgusting!
The perforations in Well 92 might be plugged with asphaltenes, so we might need to do a hot oil treatment.

“Might” is also the past tense of the auxiliary verb “may,” so if you are expressing a speculation about conditions in the past or how they could have been otherwise, use “might” rather than “may.” For speculating about the future with good probability, use “may.”

Examples:
Derek might have gone out to lunch (past); his office has been dark for an hour. However, he may be here in the next five minutes (future), so you might want to wait (small possibility).
The driller thinks the bottomhole assembly might have come off (past), but we may be able to fish it out within the next 24 hours (future speculation with somewhat greater probability).

If your use of “may” could imply that you are asking for permission rather than just speculating about probability, use “might” to avoid confusion.
Example:
I may attend the Miscible Flooding training course next week.
This could mean I have just received permission from my boss, or it could mean that I’m still thinking about it. If it’s the latter case, use “might.”

One Response to “Might vs. May”

  1. Bryan Says:

    Thanks for the info! I have been using these two words without knowing their differences and just keep on basing on how it sounds.

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