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

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?"
"Maybe."

 
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.

 
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