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starshinesis

Perhaps vs. Maybe

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When I was tutoring English in Switzerland my student came home with a paper about perhaps and maybe.  The teacher wanted them to use each one in the correct sentence.  Even though I am a native English speaker with a Masters degree in education I had no clue how to help her with that page.  To me perhaps and maybe are interchangeable.  I figured it was probably a British English thing.  Or was her teacher just focusing on unimportant details.  The teacher was not a native English speaker, but did focus more on British English.

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After a google search I have come upon the answer to your question.

They indeed do mean the same thing & I would even go as far as to say that perhaps

the only different is the way they are perceived when spoken or read.

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I've never thought about this before. I think I've just been using both interchangeably by gut feeling and whatever sounds better in any situation. I agree that they are most likely the same though and if there were a difference I'd say it's probably that perhaps is a bit more formal and maybe can be used more casually.

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Your responses are exactly what I told my student, that perhaps was more formal.  However her teacher (non native speaker) insisted that there was a distinct difference and specific times to use each one and marked lots of the problems wrong that I had helped her with.  It was really annoying.  I think her teacher may have just been on a power trip.

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That's kind of a weird thing for the teacher to be so nit-picky about, perhaps it was a power trip situation? ;) That's always been my understanding as well, that they are more or less interchangeable. With perhaps being on the more formal side and maybe being more casual.

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Both words signify doubt as to whether a condition will occur, but they mean the same thing.  Perhaps is spoken for usage in formal conversations, though it can also be used in casual spoken usage, albeit sparingly.  As for maybe, it will always be for casual usage. 

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I agree with those above; in terms of meaning, there's really no difference between 'perhaps' and 'maybe'. 'Perhaps' is just much more formal. I would use the it if I was writing a college study or something like that, but with friends I would mostly use 'maybe'. Aside from formality, there really isn't much to think about. Maybe the teacher just had misconceptions about the words, since they weren't a native speaker?

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I usually just interchange them mainly because I thought they have the same meaning. I could be wrong too for I am not a native Eglish speaker. In my understanding, the word perhaps is more polite and more possible while maybe have more uncertainty and informal. The word maybe also denotes doubts. Like the common phrase “maybe yes, maybe no”.

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Yeah, I've been wracking my brain and I can't think of any time that one should be used instead of the other. That's really unfortunate that a teacher would make such a big issue out of something impossible.

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"Would you maybe join me in a game of chess?" and "Perhaps you would join me in a game of chess?" both ask if you would or wouldn't like to play chess. The only difference is that in the first sentence, the word 'maybe' is used informally. In the second sentence, 'Perhaps' is used formally. However, 'Perhaps can also be considered informal if used in place of 'maybe' during an informal sentence.

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I am inclined to agree that the two words are srikingly compatible. I cant really pin the major differences to be honest. i  would  suggest that the way in which they differ would most likely be in how formal or informal your speech is. I would say that perhaps is a far more formal kind of english whereas maybe is very common english. Those are my thoughts and conclusions.

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Ah.. another one of those things that make the English language confusing at times. Since you were wondering whether the terms have specific usage in the British language, I did a quick search. Here's an article from BBC which talks about it as well as the terms may and might. http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv162.shtml

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I think the biggest difference between perhaps and maybe, is perhaps makes it sound more possible then maybe. Maybe sounds more unsure. Perhaps sounds like someone was handed a new idea, that could possibly happen. Maybe sounds like the same idea, just more unsure.

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I use these words almost interchangeably. These words mean the same. Like someone said above me, 'maybe' sounds more informal.

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No, I agree with you and everyone else here, starshinesis. It doesn't seem to be a topic that would make much off a big deal when learning, so I don't know why he's teaching it. I never liked some words in our language. You get words like these and then words like inflammable and flammable, which just mean the same thing! There's no purpose for them. Unless, at one point there was and it just became obsolete with time.

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There are so many words in the English language that a debate will always come up on the most appropriate word to use in a certain situation. I work as a freelance writer; therefore I get various instructions on the kind of English required. Before I got into this business, I thought that there was only one English language. That said the beauty of the English language is that it keeps evolving. Perhaps or maybe mean the same thing to me; I stand open to be corrected if necessary.

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