perhaps VS maybe

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by skynet, Aug 22, 2007.

  1. skynet

    skynet Member

    Italy, Italian
    Hello everybody,
    I hope you won't be bothered by this ninny question :)
    When to use "perhaps" and when "may be" ?
  2. AshleySarah

    AshleySarah Senior Member

    English - N.Ireland
    It's no bother at all. :) These two terms mean the same thing - "possibly", as long as you spell maybe as one word. Example 1. Maybe/perhaps we could go to the beach for the day.
    Example 2. I heard you needed a lift and I may be just the person to help you (i.e. use separate words because you don't intend it as perhaps.
    Hope this helps a little bit.
  3. baldpate

    baldpate Senior Member

    UK, English
    I agree with Ashley. "perhaps" and "maybe" are adverbs with much the same meaning. For the most part, they may be used interchangeably; however, there are some circumstances where "maybe" would sound wrong, whereas I think "perhaps" is aways safe to use.

    "maybe" sounds a little less formal that "perhaps"; I would tend not to use it in writing, only in speech. For example, in a business report, I wouldn't write "Maybe we shall only know the true cost of the project after it has finished", but rather "Perhaps we shall ...".

    Even in speech, I would avoid using "maybe" near the auxilliary verb "may". For example, I could say "It may perhaps take longer than you think to drive to Scotland", in which "perhaps" is rather superfluous, and is really only used for emphasis; but I certainly would not say "It may maybe take longer ...", simply because of the clash of similar sounds

    In summary, "perhaps" is always safe to use. "maybe" is slightly more informal, and there is a danger of clash/confusion with the auxlliary verb "may".
  4. skynet

    skynet Member

    Italy, Italian
    Thank you to everybody! I will use perhaps the most now! I though was exactly the opposite! Now i realized I was completely wrong, thank you for waking me up :)
  5. NudgeNudge New Member

    Quite amazing, just two hours ago i was listening the song "perhaps, perhaps, perhaps" and i was wandering if one could say "maybe, maybe, maybe" :)
  6. baldpate

    baldpate Senior Member

    UK, English
    If the song is the one I think it is, I don't think "maybe" would quite work - not at all because it has the wrong meaning, but because of the different stress and rythm. If I can borrow accent markings from Italian to show where the stress normally goes, the words are "màybe" (1st syllable stressed) and "perhàps" (2nd syllable stressed). I don't think "màybe" would fit the tune so well.

    Even if I mistake the tune, think about that difference - it still might be a valid point. :)
  7. NudgeNudge New Member

    Yes, of course, it would be a wrong metric, that was not the point :)
    I was just pondering the difference about the meaning: perhaps is a word I never consider when i have to translate "forse", for me it's always maybe :)
  8. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I agree with others that "perhaps" is more formal than "maybe".

    To NudgeNudge: "I was wondering...".
    Wonder = chiedersi
    Wander = girovagare

    Purtroppo wander si pronuncia wonder e viceversa.
  9. NudgeNudge New Member

    Oh, yeah, like in "wandering wandering in the hopeless night"!
    If you like Doors, of course :)
  10. Never Got a Dinner

    Never Got a Dinner Senior Member

    America, English
    Maybe (one word) is closer to "forse."
    Perhaps is closer to "magari."
    Could be = può darsi.

    But as you can see, all three are very close in meaning.
  11. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I think in my entire lifetime I must have said "perhaps" maybe about 100 times and that is all.

    Maybe all the way!!!

    But this means "if only..", I had absolutely no idea it could mean "perhaps" as well, can someone clarify pweeze:)
  12. giovannino

    giovannino Senior Member

    Naples, Italy
    Italian, Neapolitan
    I don't know whether native speakers will agree but I get the impression that in a way "may" itself is one of the most common equivalents of "forse". I've noticed that my English friends often use "may" where "forse" would be used in Italian:

    I may see him tomorrow
    Forse lo vedrò domani

    It may rain later
    Forse pioverà più tardi

    He may be able to help you
    Forse (lui) sarà in grado di aiutarti
  13. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    I agree. In fact "may perhaps", although used, is something of a repetition.
  14. giovannino

    giovannino Senior Member

    Naples, Italy
    Italian, Neapolitan
    Alex, I don't know if I'm simplifying things here but I think "magari" only means "if only" if it is followed by a subjunctive (imperfect or pluperfect):

    Magari lo sapessi!
    Magari l'avessi saputo prima!

    In all other cases it means "perhaps", although I think that in some cases there's an additional nuance of some sort attached to "magari":

    Se oggi sei impegnato magari possiamo vederci domani

    Magari non ha letto il tuo messaggio

    Magari ti chiamerà più tardi

    Non è che magari (could it be that) si è offeso?
  15. baldpate

    baldpate Senior Member

    UK, English
    giovannino - thank you, this point had never occurred to me! I shall try to use it when going from English to Italian.

    For "Forse lo vedrò domani", for example, three translations come immediately to mind:
    Maybe I'll see him tomorrow (quite informal, perfectly ok, but casual)
    I may see him tomorrow (less informal - an 'educated' speaker)
    Perhaps I shall see him tomorrow (formal - given the subject matter, even stilted)
  16. Giannaclaudia

    Giannaclaudia Senior Member

    Ritorno sull'argomento, perchè ieri stavo guardando Judge John Deed e, ad un certo punto, il perito sotto interrogatorio risponde ad una domanda con un "maybe". L'avvocato che lo stava interrogando ripete interlocutoriamente: "Maybe?".
    Allora, il perito risponde: "Perhaps" e l'avvocato sembra soddisfatto della risposta.

    E' solo una questione formale: in tribunale non si può usare il colloquiale "maybe" oppure c'è anche una diversa sfumatura tra le due espressioni?
  17. SleepingLeopard Senior Member

    English - United States (New York)
    Ciao Giannaclaudia,

    This is a tough one! I can't be sure, but here is my guess:

    I don't think it has anything to do with "perhaps" being more formal than "maybe". As an answer to a question, they mean exactly the same. I believe that the lawyer didn't like the answer because he wanted something more definite. So he was asking the man to give him a better answer.

    By answering "perhaps", the man was saying "I don't care if you don't like my answer. I'm not going to say something more definite. I'll choose a different word if you like, but I'm giving you the same answer".

    The lawyer then moved on because he realized that he couldn't get a better answer.
  18. Giannaclaudia

    Giannaclaudia Senior Member

    Grazie, SleepingLeopard.:)
  19. Murphy

    Murphy Senior Member

    Sicily, Italy
    English, UK
    Ciao Giannaclaudia,
    I'm not going to say that sleeping leopard is wrong - her argument certainly makes sense. However, it is possible too that you were right about it being a question of formality.
    I know the TV programme you're talking about. Courtrooms are formal places and some British lawyers in particular can be very stuffy and formal (I used to work with some of them), so it's possible that the character was disapproving of the informal tone the witness had used at first. I occasionally saw judges correcting witnesses' (and lawyers') use of language at times. Since you saw the programme, perhaps (maybe) you could tell from the lawyer's attitude which explanation is the more likely.:)
  20. SleepingLeopard Senior Member

    English - United States (New York)
    In that case, you're probably correct, Murphy. I've personally never heard a lawyer or judge correcting the words a witness uses, which is why I didn't think that was the case.

    Especially if you are familiar with the particular TV program, I would say that you are most likely right here. :)
  21. Sicanius

    Sicanius Senior Member

    In realtà, pensando ad una situazione analoga, io avrei lo stesso atteggiamento se qualcuno mi rispondesse 'può darsi' la prima volta, e 'forse' la seconda. E' come si si trattasse di due gradi di incertezza. Nel caso di 'può darsi' c'è un completo distacco del parlante, come a dire io non ne so niente (e non sono cose che mi riguardano), nel caso di 'forse' c'è invece l'ammissione di una qualche probabilità che l'evento sia accaduto. Non so se gli altri parlanti hanno la stessa impressione..
    Succede niente ndel genere in inglese con 'maybe' and 'perhaps'??
  22. SleepingLeopard Senior Member

    English - United States (New York)
    È possibile che alucni madrelingua inglese non siano d'accordo, ma secondo me, "perhaps" e "maybe" hanno essatamente lo stesso grado di incertezza (l'unica differenza è il tono/la formalità).
  23. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    Ma forse in tribunale l'uso di una parola meno formale indica un certo distacco, un disinteresse, anche se il significato è esattamente lo stesso. Comunque io non ho visto il programma...

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