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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 ?
Weve been able to accelerate our growth here in part due to the incredible support from our Mayes County partners and the state of Oklahoma.
Mayes is a cum laude graduate of Syracuse University where he was recognized as a Remembrance Scholar.
Mayes was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence," wrote Mayes' attorney, Patrick Kinnally, who declined to comment further when reached by phone.
However Mr Mayes hopes he can work with Brims to build one of the firm's own buildings, such as Newcastle's Toffee Factory.
Mayes could find himself in a similar situation with different filming schedules allowing him to portray both roles.
Pc Mayes admitted writing "Jeremy Kyle fodder" on a white board next to the name of PC Kim Warrior, who had admitted she was an unmarried mum during a "get-to-know-you" session.
Katie Bland will move to the position of director of the Routes business, and Nigel Mayes will take on the position of commercial and relationships director.
But amid the celebrations, Mayes could only think of the man who had helped inspire that victory - his uncle Alan McConnell, who died earlier this year.
However, incumbent Elizabeth Carr was holding a narrow lead over Brian Cline and a larger lead over Chris Mayes in the Position 1 race.
During her Allstate career, Mayes worked on legal and regulatory matters, as well as public policy and corporate governance.
Five years ago Mayes weight 18stones (114 kilograms) and lived on burgers and chips, but next month she will represent Britain in the Olympic Games.
announced yesterday that Executive Vice President and General Counsel Michele Coleman Mayes is retiring, and her successor will be Susie Lees.