“May Or May Not” – Meaning Explained (With Examples)

Marcus Froland

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘may or may not’ and wondered what it means? This phrase has been used for centuries, but its meaning can be confusing.

In this article, we’ll explain what ‘may or may not’ means, provide some examples of its use in context, discuss common misconceptions about it, and show you how to use it correctly.

So if you’re looking for clarification on this enigmatic phrase, read on!

Key Takeaways

  • ‘May or may not’ is a phrase that indicates uncertainty or unknown outcomes.
  • It implies that either outcome is possible and acknowledges the influence of external factors.
  • The phrase is versatile and can be used in various contexts to express doubt or hesitation.
  • It does not denote a lack of certainty but rather allows for freedom of decision-making.

Definition of May Or May Not

The phrase ‘may or may not’ usually means that something is uncertain or unknown. It is often used when discussing potential outcomes of a situation that will depend on factors outside of one’s control.

For example, if someone were asked if they would be attending an event, they might respond with ‘I may or may not go’ meaning that it isn’t certain yet whether they’ll attend.

Similarly, if you are trying to make plans with a friend who has yet to commit to those plans, you could say ‘we may or may not go out tonight’ which implies the possibility of either occurring.

In both cases, ‘may or may not’ expresses uncertainty about what will happen in the future and suggests that other external variables could influence the outcome.

Examples of May Or May Not

Using the phrase ‘may or may not’ implies uncertainty or unknown. For example, if someone says ‘I may or may not buy a new car,’ it means they are unsure. Similarly, if someone says ‘You may or may not be able to attend the party,’ it means their invitation is tentative. In other words, ‘may or may not’ implies uncertainty about an outcome. This phrase can also be used when there is a possibility for something to happen but no guarantee; for instance, ‘The team might win – they may or may not.’ Ultimately, ‘may or may not’ indicates that the future remains unclear and anything could happen.

Contextual Uses of May Or May Not

You’re likely familiar with the phrase ‘may or may not’, which implies uncertainty about an outcome. This phrase is used in many contexts, often to indicate that a certain event or result could possibly happen, but it’s uncertain if it will.

For example, when you purchase something online, the shipping time frame may be listed as “could arrive in 3-5 days” – meaning it might take three days for your purchase to arrive or it might take five days; there is no definitive answer.

Similarly, when you are offered a job position, the salary amount may be listed as “negotiable” – the company may offer more than what was initially proposed or they may not.

In these cases and others like them, ‘may or may not’ provides an accurate description of the situation without giving any guarantees.

Common Misconceptions of May Or May Not

Although it’s commonly used, there are some misconceptions about the phrase ‘may or may not’ that people should be aware of.

It does not denote a lack of certainty, but rather an acknowledgement that either outcome is possible. This can be seen when someone says ‘I may or may not go to the store today.’ They are expressing that they could choose either option.

Additionally, it implies that someone has control over their decision and is allowing themselves the freedom to decide.

Lastly, ‘may or may not’ can also indicate doubt as to what will happen in the future. For example, if someone says ‘That party might be fun – we’ll see,’ they are essentially saying they don’t know what will actually happen.

All in all, ‘may or may not’ is a versatile phrase with various meanings depending on how it’s used.

How to Use May Or May Not Correctly

When using the phrase ‘may or may not’, it’s important to be aware of its various meanings and use it correctly.

It can mean a possibility exists that something is true, but there is an equal possibility that it is false. For example, ‘The school might reopen next week, but it may or may not depending on the situation.’

It can also mean uncertainty about a future outcome, such as ‘I may or may not attend the meeting.’

Lastly, it can be used to express hesitation in making a decision. For instance, ‘I’m considering getting a new job; I may or may not decide to do so.’

In all cases, use ‘may or may not’ cautiously and accurately.


To sum it up, ‘may or may not’ is an expression used to indicate uncertainty. It can be used for a variety of contexts, from expressing doubt about someone’s future actions to suggesting a possibility.

However, it’s important to remember that this phrase implies uncertainty and does not necessarily mean yes or no. When using it correctly, ‘may or may not’ allows us to express our doubts in a polite way while still making clear that we are uncertain.