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v. a choice to act or not, or a promise of a possibility, as distinguished from "shall" which makes it imperative. 2) in statutes, and sometimes in contracts, the word "may" must be read in context to determine if it means an act is optional or mandatory, for it may be an imperative. The same careful analysis must be made of the word "shall." Non-lawyers tend to see the word "may" and think they have a choice or are excused from complying with some statutory provision or regulation. (See: shall)

MAY. To be permitted; to be at liberty; to have the power.
     2. Whenever a statute directs the doing of a thing for the sake of justice or the public good, the word may is the same as shall. For example, the 23 H. VI. says, the sheriff may take bail, that is construed he shall, for he is compellable to do so. Carth. 293 Salk. 609; Skin. 370.
     3. The words shall and may in general acts of the legislature or in private constitutions, are to be construed imperatively; 3. Atk. 166; but the construction of those words in a deed depends on circumstances. 3 Atk. 282. See 1 Vern. 152, case. 142 9 Porter, R. 390.

References in periodicals archive ?
In the administrative records of the Consilium minus and the Consilium maius we read that the plaques in question, installed in March 1446, were commissioned in December of 1443 from no less an expert than Cyriacus of Ancona.
Geschichtsbetrachtung bei Vincenz von Beauvais: Die 'Apologia Actoris' zum Speculum Maius.
In his Opus maius or Larger Work, as Durant notes, "he pleads for science as revealing the Creator in the creation, and as enabling Christians to convert heathens immune to Scripture.
Bernard of Clairvaux stated that '[t]he soul at prayer should have before it an image of the God-man, in his birth or infancy or as he was teaching, or dying, or rising, or ascending'; John of Garlard advocated as 'models of department' the 'graven images of the churches, which you should carry in your mind as living and indelible pictures'; and Roger Bacon spoke in his Opus maius of phantasia and the soul's reception of images.
The Latin text, taken from the 1964-5 facsimile reprint of the 1642 (Douai) edition of the Speculum maius, is provided with a facing-page French translation.
27) Anselm's unum argumentum has the formula: "aliquid quo nihil maius cogitan possit", or, better, "id quo maius cogitari nequit" (Monologion,
spectat et Augusto praetextum nomine templum, et visum lecto Caesare maius opus.
L'elaborazione complessiva sfrutta le enciclopedie come riferimento di ogni sapere scientifico: lo Speculum maius di Vincenzo di Beauvais, le Etymologiae di Isidoro, il De natura rerum di Alexander Neckam, l'Exameron di Ambrogio, il De naturali bus questionibus di Seneca, il Polycraticus di Giovanni di Salisbury, il De philosophia mundi di Guglielmo di Conches costituiscono allo stesso tempo sia la quantita di sapere necessaria sia la qualita, anche etica, dello stesso sapere" (1:viii).