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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 ?
TWINS born joined at the head who were separated by surgeons last month may be allowed home within six weeks, say doctors.
A new cast-film line shipped to China last month may be the widest coex cast film line ever, says Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering, Gloucester, Mass.
The plan must provide that compensation for any calendar month may no be deferred unless a deferral agreement is entered before the first day of that month.
Only generators producing less than 50 pounds of waste in any month may be exempted from the tracking rules.
Furthermore, the distribution to the Trust in any given month may include significant volume adjustments for sales in prior months that reflect pricing for those prior months.
Summary: The school where 11-year-old Loujain Hussain was critically injured by fellow students last month may face closure, said the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) in an official statement.