May

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may

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 ?
Dowtyr thow desyrest gretly to se me, & pu mayst boldly, whan bu art in pi bed, take me to be as for pi weddyd husbond, as thy derworthy derlyng, & as for thy swete sone, for I wyl be louyd as a sone shuld be louyd wyth be modyr & wil pat pu loue me, dowtyr, as a good wife owyth to loue hir husbonde.
Private Wealth: Thow mayst have yt, man, yf thow wylt hether resorte, For the Holy Father ys as good a felowe as we.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang (Sonnet 73).
Rosalee [looking at tree]: "That time of year thou mayst in me behold / When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang / Upon those boughs which shake against the cold ..."
And if I still feel the smart of my crushed leg, though it be now so long dissolved; then, why mayst not thou, carpenter, feel the fiery pains of hell for ever, and without a body?
thou--whomsoever thou mayst be, into whose hands these memoirs of the wretched Matilda may fall'--when your lamp suddenly expires in the socket, and leaves you in total darkness." (163-64)
Following Portia's second "Tarry," this time with the epithet "Jew," Gratiano threw Shylock down on knees on "Beg that thou mayst have leave to hang thyself." Shylock, as the newly identified victim, whispered in the little voice that the stentorian actor Conde was also capable of, "Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that," making the Jew seem much as the injured party.
guard them [the temple vessels and the Ark] until the last times, So that, when thou art ordered, thou mayst restore them, So that strangers may not get possession of them.
A womman in travaillynge was hir biforn; But for hir child so longe was unborn, Ful pitously Lucyna gan she calle, And seyde, "Help, for thou mayst best of alle!" (2075-2086)
The subject on which he includes a long digression near the beginning of the book, 'Labor improbus omnia vincit' ('There is nothing so hie, so sharpe, so rigorous, so difficile, which with diligent study thou mayst not obtaine' (sig.
There, in a bush that was enveloped in fire but was nevertheless not consumed by the flames, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "Come, and I will send thee to Pharao, that thou mayst bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." But Moses, a skeptic, replied: "Who am I that I should go to Pharao, and should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" When the Lord God insisted that Moses would indeed lead His people out of bondage, Moses again demurred.