Language tip of the week: maybe and perhaps

Posted by on September 27, 2012

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are based on areas of English (e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc) which learners often find difficult. Here is some advice about using the adverbs maybe and perhaps:

Don’t confuse the adverb maybe (one word), which means ‘perhaps’, with may be (two words), which means ‘could be’:

✗ In an earthquake your house maybe badly damaged.
✓ In an earthquake your house may be badly damaged.
✗ It maybe an unfulfilled dream.
✓ It may be an unfulfilled dream.

May be Julie was right when she said I was jealous.
Maybe Julie was right when she said I was jealous.

Maybe and perhaps have the same meaning, but maybe is used mainly in spoken English and informal writing. In more formal English, perhaps is far more common:

Now, maybe I haven’t explained myself very well.
There are, perhaps, three principles which must be followed.

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