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    #1

    may not

    Hello everyone,

    Does "may not" change its meaning depending on context?

    Examples from 2 books:

    1. Meanwhile, I summoned my courage to speak up to this employer: “Now let me say this to you: you may not pay me today, but you are going to pay me later, ten times more than you would be paying me today.

    2. And part of our practice of being together suggests that you must treat me equally in certain ways and at certain times and with certain exceptions and nuances (you may not pay me less at work because of my gender, but you need not have over to dinner the same number of times as others you know.

    Do I understand correctly that "you may not pay me" means the opposite things in the examples above?

    And can I, for example, say to somebody, "You may not go" to mean you can stay here if you want?

    Thank you.
    Last edited by KLPNO; 14-Aug-2015 at 17:21.

  1. Roman55's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: may not

    I am not a teacher.

    They do have different meanings, but they are not opposites. In the contexts given I would interpret them as follows.

    'You may not pay me today…' = 'It could be/probably is the case that you are not paying me today'.
    'You may not pay me less…' = 'You do not have the right to pay me less'.

    'You may not go' usually means that you are not permitted to go. It could mean, in the right context, that it's possible that you are not going. If you want it to mean, 'You can stay here if you want', you should say, 'You may stay'.

  2. Eckaslike's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: may not

    Hello KLPNO,

    Quote Originally Posted by KLPNO View Post
    Do I understand correctly that "you may not pay me" mean the opposite things in the examples above?
    My understanding is that, in the first sentence the word "may" is being used to express possibility. "You may [might] not pay me today, but......"

    The second sentence is using "may" in the sense of giving someone permission, or not, to do something. In this instance the "may not" means "you are not allowed" to pay me less at work because of my gender.

    Quote Originally Posted by KLPNO View Post
    And can I, for example, say to somebody, "You may not go" to mean you can stay here if you want?
    No. "You may not go" means "I do not give you permission to leave", therefore the person has no choice about whether or not to stay.

    You could say "You may stay if you wish", which gives them a choice.

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    #4

    Re: may not

    Quote Originally Posted by KLPNO View Post
    And can I, for example, say to somebody, "You may not go" to mean you can stay here if you want?
    You needn't go would work in that situation.

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