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4 Comments

  • Is it possible to use ‘maybe’ at the beginning of a sentence? One teacher in UK was always correcting me and asking to use ‘perhaps’ instead. Maybe, it’s not a mistake to use ‘maybe’ like this?

  • Julie: regarding ‘maybe’ – a good question! The issue is less about where the word appears in the sentence and more about what kind of text it appears in. As Kati’s post says, ‘maybe’ is (as a generalization) more informal than ‘perhaps’. Comparisons we’ve made between mother-tongue academic writing and similar texts written by learners of English show that learners use ‘maybe’ far more than mother-tongue writers (who rarely use ‘maybe’ in academic writing). In spoken English or less formal registers, on the other hand, ‘maybe’ is more frequent than ‘perhaps’, and is quite often sentence-initial. These aren’t hard-and-fast ‘rules’ of course, but when we compare these types of text we can observe strong preferences for one word or the other..(Our corpus includes about 150,000 examples of ‘maybe’, of which around 40,000 occur at the beginning of the sentence.)

  • Michael, thank you for the explanation. I think I see the difference now. I’ll use ‘perhaps’ to talk to the Queen 😉

  • It is a great idea to post these langaguage tips, but for Foreigners it is of little use if we don´t know in which register these words/expressions can be used. Could you please add registers? Bags of Thanx!