Maybe vs May be

Maybe and may be are almost identical, but that little space makes a big difference that may be confused by native speakers. Maybe this lesson will help you understand.


Maybe is an adverb that means "possibly, perhaps." It is used with verbs.

Maybe I can help.

Maybe Tom knows.

You could call Pete, maybe.

It can also be a response to a question.

"Are you coming with us?"

May be

May be is made up of two verbs (the helping verb may and the infinitive be) which together refer to a possibility. They are not used with another verb.

I may be of some assistance.

That may be true.

Pete may be late to the party.

The Bottom Line

The meanings of maybe and may be are similar; the different uses are grammatical. Maybe must be used with or in reponse to a verb, whereas may be is a set of two verbs.

Generally speaking, if there’s a verb in the clause, if you’re tacking it on to the end of a sentence, or if you’re responding to a question, maybe is the correct choice. Otherwise, may be may be your best bet.