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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)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
The extent of the SFIO's attacks on the extreme Right was not as prevalent in the May Day context as during election periods.
May Day is also a traditional holiday in many cultures.
On May 1, 2010 tens of thousands of union members gathered for the first legally-sanctioned May Day celebration in Istanbul's central Taksim Square in 30 years.
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "There is no reason to move the May Day public holiday to create a new autumn public holiday.
Using May Day observances as her historical lens, the author traces the complicated contours of the American labor movement, especially its most radical elements, its struggle with American capital, its internal conflicts, and the challenges it faced in negotiating allegiances locally nationally, and internationally.
May Day Project: Gold, Lead, Zinc, Silver, Copper; W NSW (PEX 100%).
Landgren, who will soon fly to New York to report to the UN Security Council also said that major cities across the country expect large May Day rallies and celebrations.
She concludes this section with a discussion of May Day today and its relevance as a community-based custom, steeped in nostalgia for a time that never was.
Up to 300 smaller demonstrations were planned across France, and police said turnout in Strasbourg, Nancy, Metz and Besancon was many times higher than last year's May Day events.
MALAGA - May Day is an ideal time to hit the beach in Malaga.
As a result, the day was formally recognised as an annual event, May Day, at the second congress in 1891.