When spoken, maybe and may be sound exactly the same, however when written they have 2 different meanings. Let’s take a look at the different meanings.

Maybe

Maybe is an adverb. It is very similar in meaning to perhaps or possibly.

For example:

  • Maybe we’ll have sausages for lunch. Perhaps we’ll have sausages for lunch.
  • I’m going to buy a lottery ticket, maybe we’ll win a zillion dollars! I’m going to buy a lottery ticket, perhaps we’ll win a zillion dollars!
May Be

May be is a verb phrase. It is very similar in meaning to could be or might be.

For example:

  • I think there may be rain tomorrowI think there could be rain tomorrow.
  • Lisa said that she may be late for dinner this eveningLisa said that she might be late for dinner this evening.
Usage

If you are unsure which (maybe or may be) you should be using in a sentence, try substituting perhaps or could be into the sentence.

Example:

  • maybe studying at Oxford University next year.

Is this right? Not sure? Let’s try substitution.

  • could be studying at Oxford University next year.
  • perhaps studying at Oxford University next year.

As we can see from the above sentence could be is correct! The correct sentence should be:

  • may be studying at Oxford University next year.
Your turn

Can you write some example sentences with ‘maybe’ and ‘may be?’