かもしれない (kamoshirenai) Meaning Japanese [JLPT N4]

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かもしれない (kamoshirenai) Meaning Japanese [JLPT N4]

かもしれない (kamoshirenai) is an expression used to express uncertainty. かもしれない means maybe, probably, could.

かもしれない expresses an assumption of the speaker about what could happen.

There is no absolute certainty, and it is also possible that what we have assumed is not true.

In this post we learn how the expression かもしれない works, how it is formed, and when to use it, through examples of real sentences.

Structure of the expression かもしれない

The expression かもしれない is made up of the following terms:

  • かも: combination of the particles か and も, which together indicate possibility (might)
  • The Potential form of the Godan verb ()
  • ない: auxiliary verb meaning to not exist
()
()
()れる
()
()ない

かもしれない is generally translated as could or maybe, but its literal meaning is even with (A), we cannot know (()る is a verb that means to know).

When using かもしれない

As mentioned earlier, かもしれない is used to indicate uncertainty about a particular situation. かもしれない expresses a probability that generally is around 50% (or less).

Another similar expression is でしょう, which has a higher probability (80-90%) than かもしれない

かもしれない can be used to refer to both one's own actions and the actions of another person.

An example of uncertainty are weather forecasts: もしれない is not used for forecasts, since もしれない would be too uncertain and not very credible

How to use the expression かもしれない

Since かもしれない derives from the Godan verb ()る, it is possible to conjugate this expression like any other Godan verb:

Verb+かもしれない
Adjective[い]+かもしれない
Adjective[な]+かもしれない
Noun+かもしれない

As you can see, the conjugation of かもしれない has no special rule: just add かもしれない.

In more colloquial situations かもしれない can be shortened to just かも, or in its contracted version かもしれん

How to use かもしれない as a guess

かもしれない is also used to express a guess about what happened, what is happening, or what will happen in the future (depending on the tense in which it is conjugated).

Let's see some examples of the use of かもしれない:

(わたし)
(らい)(ねん)
(けっ)(こん)する
かもしれない。

It could be that I'm getting married next year.

In this sentence かもしれない expresses a possibility of a future event. Considering the origin of the expression, a more literal translation might be even though I think I might get married, we can't know.

()(した)
(おそ)くなる
かもしれない。

It might get late tomorrow.

You can also add もしかしたら or ひょっとしたら at the beginning of the sentence to emphasize the uncertainty of the expression

Using かも to be less direct

As stated in other posts, Japanese people tend to not express any ideas or thoughts too directly.

For this reason we can often find the use of かも to reduce the certainty of a sentence and make the expression less direct.

(むずか)しい
なあ。

It's hard.

ちょっと
(むずか)しい
かも。

It might be a bit difficult.

Instead of saying It's hard, which risks sounding too direct and accusatory, in Japanese terms like ちょっと and かも are added to make the same meaning but in a more uncertain way.

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