Learning English

Inspiring language learning since 1943

English Change language

Unit 1: English In A Minute
Give us a minute and we'll give you English

Select a unit

  1. 1 English In A Minute
  2. 2 English In A Minute

Session 61

Welcome to English In A Minute. Give us a minute and we'll give you a hot tip about English. Grammar, vocabulary... there's so much to learn! And all taught by your favourite BBC Learning English staff!

Activity 1

Maybe vs may be

Do you have a minute to spare to learn some English? Dan's going to demonstrate the difference between 'maybe' and 'may be'. Give us 60 seconds and we'll give you the English!

Watch the video and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

Hi, everyone! What's the difference between 'maybe' and 'may be'? Well, we're going to find out in this English In A Minute.

May is used to express possibility – usually not a very certain one. It's a modal verb so it's always followed by a bare infinitive. The bare infinitive of 'be' is… be! Using the two together, we can make a sentence: Don't call her. She may be at work!

Now, maybe is just one word. It's an adverb and it has a few uses. Most commonly, it means 'perhaps' or 'possibly'. In this case, it's often the first word in the sentence. Don’t' call her. Maybe she's at work!

However, put it in front of an amount to mean 'around' or 'approximately'. This video will be seen by maybe a million people. Make it happen, people!


Did you like that? Why not try these?

EIAM Teaser 6mingram_6_modals_deduction_speculation.jpg 8_yt_cover_oyster.jpg______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Maybe vs May be

is used to talk about possibility - and not a very certain one. May is a modal verb. This means that it doesn't change its form for different subject pronouns or to show time. Modal verbs are always followed by a bare infinitive verb.  

  • I may be home soon.
  • She may call later.

May be
is always followed by a bare infinitive verb. The bare infinitive form of 'be' is 'be'! 

  • She may be at work.
  • It may be about to rain.

is an adverb with a few different uses. Most commonly, it means  'perhaps' or 'possibly'. When used in this way, maybe goes at the beginning of the sentence. If we use maybe in front of an amount, it can mean 'around' or 'approximately'.

  • Maybe she's at work.
  • Maybe we'll take a holiday this year.
  • This video will be seen by maybe a million people!
  • I've got maybe five pounds in my pocket.


To do

Try our quiz to see how well you've learned today's language. 

English In A Minute Quiz

3 Questions

Test your understanding of this lesson with our quiz!

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y


You can download a PDF document for this episode here.


We hope you enjoyed English in a Minute. You can find more episodes here