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Maybe vs. May be

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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A compound word is two or more words combined to form a new word. There are many compound words in English, like windmill, strawberry, granddaughter, and maybe. Maybe also has a near homophone in the phrase may be. Since, in this case, the words are kept separate, it is no longer a compound word. May be is actually a verb phrase. Is the compound word maybe and the phrase may be ever interchangeable? Continue reading to find out.

In this article, I will discuss the difference between these two: maybe vs. may be. I will give an example of each in a correct sentence. Plus, I will reveal a useful trick to use when you can’t decide whether may be or maybe is appropriate.


The compound maybe originated from late Middle English: from the phrase it may be (that).

Maybe as adverb:

The word maybe is used as an adverb in English language where it means perhaps or possibly.

Maybe I won't go back.

Maybe as noun:

The word maybe is also used as a noun in English language sometimes which means a mere possibility or probability.

No ifs, buts, or maybes.

May be as verb phrase:

May be also indicates possibility, but it is a verb phrase, rather than an adverb. May be consists of the verbs may and be, which are separate words here, and which refer to something that could happen or a state of affairs that might exist.

Maybe vs. May be

I may be young, but I am wise beyond my years.


“Maybe later on, you and I can go swimming together down at the holler,” Susanna offered.

“Maybe,” Tom replied, “but Pa needs me to put the cows out to pasture first.”

Maybe what you can go online and get tomorrow. (Told you some things had changed.) Maybe what you could buy your partner (ditto). Maybe what to put on a wish list. –The New York Times

Mia may be going to the beach today, but only if she doesn’t have to drive herself.

Rapidly melting Greenland may be shedding its ice even faster than anyone suspected, new research suggests. –The Washington Post

Maybe or may be:

May be is a verb phrase. Maybe is an adverb. While these words contain all of the same letters, they do function as different parts of speech, and they cannot be substituted for each other. Maybe is an adverb that means possibly or perhaps. May be is a verb phrase that indicates something that might happen or a potential state of affairs. Since the verb phrase may be contains two separate verbs, you will always remember not to use it as an adverb. Likewise, maybe is only ever an adverb, and never a verb.


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