A friend using English as a Second Language asks:

What is the difference between may and might????
When do I use one and not the other?

My quick response:

“may” asks for permission;
“might” implies a possibility

Dictionary definitions are somewhat confusing: Merriam-Webster includes several common conflations of may, but opens with:

1 a archaic : have the ability to b : have permission to <you may go now> : be free to <a rug on which children may sprawl — C. E. Silberman> — used nearly interchangeably with can

Interestingly, might is blatantly defined in relation to force or strength, however the distinction that I think matters (between “may” and “might”) does not seem to be articulated in these static definitions.

Might implies the range of a capacity within one’s own being or enabled by conditions of the environment. May involves the power structure imposed by the institutional or relational system. While might assumes the locus of power from a center outward, may acknowledges the restraints and limitations that restrict and/or prevent such freedom.