In casual usage, people interchange may and might. However, there is a slight difference that is useful to know.
May means something is more likely to happen.
Might means something is less likely to happen.
There may be food at the party.
There might be someone dressed in a killer whale costume at the party.
What’s a party without food? It’s very likely there would at least be hors d’oeuvres there; that’s why we use may. But, I know I have never been to a party where someone was dressed as a killer whale. It’s safe to say you’d be less likely to encounter that (unless you were going to a killer whale costume party), which is why we use might.
Think of degrees of likelihood. The closer the situation is to “will happen,” use may. The closer it is to “won’t happen,” use might.
Note that this does not apply to past tense. The past tense of may is might. Why? Because English loves to be confusing! So, if you are writing or speaking in the past tense, always use might.
Choose may or might for each sentence.
1) I’m feeling lucky today. I _____ win the big jackpot.
2) I _____ eat a cookie today, just as I do every day.
3) There _____ be a huge asteroid careening toward Earth that will land on my front lawn.
4) Eight hundred higher-qualified candidates applied for the job, but Clyde _____ get the position.
5) Clyde is the only person who applied for the job. He _____ just get it!
1) might 2) may 3) might 4) might 5) may
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Many people use “penultimate” to mean “more than ultimate,” but the word actually has a very narrow (and different) definition. Here’s what Merriam-Webster says:
So in a list, “penultimate” would refer to the next-to-last item. On a train ride, it would mean the next-to-last stop.
And in this photo of fantastic chickens, the chicken on the left would be the “penultimate chicken.”
What Does “Ultimate” Mean?
“Ultimate,” however, has multiple meanings.
One is “final.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” destination is Mars.
Another is “eventual.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” goal is universal domination.
It also means “fundamental.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” nature is pure evil.
Now you know, and you can correct your friends much to their chagrin (just like I do)!
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One of the ways we use the suffix –ful is to explain how much of something exists somewhere. Or, as my go-to dictionary, Merriam-Webster, puts it:
This means in our question of “Is it handfull or handful?” the answer is handful with one L.
However, as you can see in the dictionary’s example, handful isn’t the only use of this suffix. Basically, anything that can hold something can get the –ful suffix.
roomful can hold people
bucketful can hold apples
eyeful can hold beautiful visions
oceanful can hold fish
glassful can hold juice
pocketful can hold tiny treasures
spaceshipful can hold aliens
You get the gist. Now here’s how they work in sentences:
The kitten held out a pawful of jewels to its human.
Frida unleashed a brainful of magical powers onto the bad guys.
The lizard discovered a desertful of hot sand and rocks to enjoy.
Now go forth and use your –ful suffix with vigor.
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This spooky aircraft rests in a hangar when it is not flying in super secret missions.
A hangar is an enclosed shelter used to house something, such as airplanes.
A common mistake is to misspell hangar with an E.
However, a hanger is the item used to hang things, such as clothes.
- Jim Bob piloted the mysterious, abandoned UFO into the hangar.
- Cathy arranged her clothes hangers evenly in her closet.
- The billionaire’s hangar held both his jet and his helicopter.
- The driver used a bent hanger to coax the locked car door open.
Erin Servais is a book editor who enjoys teaching writers along the way. To learn about hiring her for your next project, please visit her website: Dot and Dash LLC.
Using the wrong fork at dinner is some people’s peccadillo.
Are you looking for a word to describe something that annoys you, but isn’t irksome enough to write a letter to the editor about (well, unless you’re that kind of person)?
Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines it:
peccadillo: a small mistake or fault that is not regarded as very bad or serious
A person’s peccadillo could be that their partner doesn’t fold laundry the way they like it, or their friend insists on driving exactly five miles over the speed limit. Peccadillo covers minor offenses. That means genocide, for example, falls outside most people’s peccadillo boundaries.
Humans have long needed a term to differentiate between a minor and a major fault. Peccadillo originates in English from the end of the 1500s, when English speakers borrowed it from the Spanish. In Spanish peccadillo means also means a minor sin, whereas pecado means a greater sin.
What are your peccadilloes? Tell me in the comments below.