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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 ?
Typically on May Day, villages and towns across the UK now mark the beginning of springtime fertility.
May Queens prepare for the Liverpool May Day Parade, in 1987
amp;nbsp;The rallies will vary from place to place on this May Day.
In Mirpur, various May Day processions were taken out from View Point near Quaid-e-Azam Stadium Chowk separately under the auspices of PWD Workers Union and the Jammu Kashmir Peoples National Party.
lt;BThousands march to Trafalgar Square in central London at yesterday's May Day rally
Taksim square was home to May Day celebrations until 1977 when dozens of people were killed during demonstrations, dubbed in Turkish history as the 'bloody May Day'.
The May Day rally of the Joint Opposition was scheduled to commence from Shalika Grounds and at Kirulopane Grounds on Sunday (May 01).
The May Queen is also crowned on May Day and often sees local schoolgirls compete for the crown in honour of Flora, the Roman goddess.
The heart of May Day celebrations has always been in ystanbul's busiest square, Taksim, but it was closed to demonstrators following May Day 1977, also known as Bloody May Day, when unknown assailants opened fire on the crowd, killing 34 people.
Did you know that May Day celebrations, including maypole dancing, were banned for a short time in England during the 17th century but have fortunately been enjoyed since, as our pictures show.
KUWAIT, May 1 (KUNA) -- Workers in Russia and South Korea took to the streets on Friday to mark the International Workers Day, commonly known as May Day or Labor Day, an annual occasion when they demand more payment or better working environment.
uk VIDEO Blues fans: 'Give us back our club' LIVE BLOG Latest breaking news and travel PICTURES Crowds flock to May Day in park TOP 5 MOST-READ STORIES ONLINE www.