624 - かもしれない

The words "maybe" and "might" are extremely important.

Case in point:

A) Are you seriously gonna eat another piece of cake?

B)

Accordingly, maybe we should study this grammar:


JLPT N4: かもしれない (maybe; might)

[something] かもしれない
maybe [something]; might [something]

An example:


遅れちゃうかもしれないよ。急ごう。
おくれちゃう かもしれない よ。 いそごう。
We might be late. Let’s hurry.
Literally: “(unfortunately) be late + かもしれない + よ. + let’s hurry.”

Compare that with:


遅れちゃうよ。急ごう。
おくれちゃう よ。 いそごう。
We're gonna be late. Let’s hurry.
Literally: “(unfortunately) be late + よ. + let’s hurry.”

(Note that you should understand that 遅れちゃう means 遅れてしまう thanks to this past lesson: [NDL #609] - JLPT N4: ~てしまう ([unfortunately] ended up).)


🔥 Destruction 🔥

👷 Construction 👷

Just put a word in plain form in front of かもしれない、かもしれません、or just かも:

[plain form] + かもしれない

Saying just "plain form" can be a bit confusing, though, so we're using this color guide in the lesson:

plain form VERBかもしれない
i-adjectiveかもしれない
NOUN / na-adjectiveかもしれない

It is worth noting that we do NOT write だ after nouns or na-adjectives.

かもしれません sounds more formal than かもしれない. The most casual form is just saying かも.


What percentage of probability do you think is suggested with the word "maybe?"

50/50? 70/30? 60/40?

Of course, the correct answer is "it depends."

That's why we can say, "maybe I'm sick" after getting a high fever and coughing uncontrollably (← likely sick), "maybe it'll rain next week" when we have no idea what the weather forecast is (← maybe it'll rain; maybe it won't), and "maybe I'll win the lotto" when trying to figure out how in the world we're going to pay all of our bills (← unlikely to win).

Similarly, the level of certainty denoted by かもしれません varies from situation to situation. We've tried to show this by including example sentences where the speaker's uncertainty about whether something is or is not a certain way varies.

Here's an example where it really does seem to be a 50/50 split, though:


A:
この記事、嘘だと思いますか。
この きじ、 うそ だ と おもいます か。
Do you think (the author of) this article is lying?
Literally: “this + article, + lie + だ + と + think + か.”


B:
かもしれないし、嘘じゃないかもしれない
うそ かもしれない し、 うそ じゃない かもしれない。
It [He] might be lying, or it [he] might not be lying.
Literally: “lie + かもしれない + し (=and), + lie + is not + かもしれない.”
Note: For more on し, see this lesson: [NDL #344] - JLPT N4: し (and, besides).


Sometimes you'll see the word もしかしたら coming before the "maybe" phrase. もしかしたら means something like "perhaps" or "maybe."

Saying "maybe... maybe" or "perhaps... maybe" sounds odd in English, but it works in Japanese:


最近、海老を食べると蕁麻疹が出ます。もしかしたらアレルギーかもしれません
さいきん、 えび を たべる と じんましん が でます。 もしかしたら アレルギー かもしれません。
Lately, I’ve been getting rashes [hives] when I eat shrimp. I might be allergic to it.
Literally: “recently, + shrimp + を + eat + と (=if/and) + rashes / hives + が + come out. + perhaps + allergy + かもしれません.”

Cues like もしかしたら exist in Japanese so that listeners can guess the ending of a sentence before hearing it. With this, the "maybe" at the end of our phrase is not totally unexpected. But you can use かもしれない without もしかしたら, too, which is what we've done in most of our examples.



今度のテストで100点をとったら、お母さんにスケートボードを買ってもらえるかもしれない。頑張るぞ。
こんど の テスト で ひゃく てん を とったら、 おかあさん に スケートボード を かって もらえる かもしれない。 がんばる ぞ。
If I get 100 on my next test, my mom might get me a skateboard. I’m gonna try really hard.
Literally: “this (next) + の + test + で + 100 + points + を + if (I) got (a score) (=if took), + mom + に + skateboard + を + buy (and) + can receive + かもしれない. + do my best / try hard + ぞ.”



意外とおいしいかもしれないから、食べてみましょうよ。
いがい と おいしい かもしれない から、 たべて みましょう よ。
You never know, it might taste good. Let’s try it.
Literally: “unexpectedly (=unexpected + と) + tasty + かもしれない + から (=because), + let’s try (=eat [and] + let’s see) + よ.”


This sentence sounds a bit formal. Let's see how it might look if we put it into very casual language:


意外とおいしいかも。食べてみようよ。
いがい と おいしい かも。 たべて みよう よ。
You never know, it might taste good. Let’s try it.
Literally: “unexpectedly (=unexpected + と) + tasty + かも. + let’s try (=eat [and] + let’s see) + よ.”

I removed から to make it sound natural. Incorrect language will start sounding strange to you, too, once you've gotten lots of exposure to Japanese.


You might want to re-read this lesson a few times.

There's no if or maybes about it―you will need to use かもしれない to speak Japanese fluently.




Noticed any typos we've missed or other issues?
Report them here at this link.

Have questions about something in this lesson? Something not quite clicking yet? Join our discord community and discuss any questions / comments with us and fellow students.
You can join by heading to this link.