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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 ?
FULL BLOOM: A May Day parade horse prepares to leave from Sefton Park.
Special May Day rallies coupled with processions, in all ten AJK districts including Mirpur, will be the hallmark of the day.
Castle |Bromwich Hall Gardens trust May Day celebrations in 1980 with Louise Gatehouse and Marie Clair O'Brien
Let's celebrate May Day this year by re-committing ourselves to the struggle to end austerity.
He said the May Day is a voice against all such acts of the governments who do not give the laborer his rights.
From its modest beginnings in pre-First World War Bavaria and Brittany to its increasing visibility in the 1920s-30s, the May Day tradition had to compete with deeply ingrained Catholic rituals.
NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said that while May Day was a day to celebrate our achievements as a labour movement, it was also an occasion to reflect on our current challenges.
Children learned their new maypole dancing routines during their PE lessons and also learned the background behind the traditional May Day celebrations.
The demonstration was one of a number of May Day events planned by anti-capitalist and anti-war protesters.
Security forces used water cannon and tear gas as May Day marchers tried to reach the city's main square which had been closed due to renovation works, authorities said.
A May Day protester throws a stone at riot police as he and others try to break through barricades to reach the city's main square in central Istanbul on May 1.
DHAKA (TAP) - The death toll from last week's collapse of a garment factory building in Bangladesh has passed 400, as thousands gather in Dhaka for a May Day demonstration to demand safety at work and the death penalty for the building's owner.