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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 ?
Delta, which had already cut 13,000 jobs, has also announced that the expected job cuts predicted by the company last month may possibly increase.
Processors who have enough equipment on hand to bale their flow of scrap one month may find them selves short-handed the next month when one or two major projects come their way.
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.
Federal benefits distributed at the start of the month may, in some cases, fund drug or alcohol purchases that raise the likelihood of lethal outcomes, the scientists assert in the July 8 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE.
* 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.
A notification issued by the Finance Division said that as per Note-4 of Rule-217 to the Treasury Rules (Vol-I) if the festival of Eid-ul-Azha falls within the last ten days of a month, salary of that month may be disbursed in advance to all federal government servants and pensioners observing the festival.
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.
pounds 10 a month may not seem a lot of money, but this amounts to pounds 120 a year and, if you then consider how many staff members work at Whiston hospital, it amounts to a pretty tidy sum.
A MAN charged with dangerous driving causing the deaths of three people last month may face further charges, it emerged yesterday.