Home / English Lessons / Pronunciation of Contracted Verbs: May + have = [meyəv] | Part 5 | English Pronunciation Lesson

Pronunciation of Contracted Verbs: May + have = [meyəv] | Part 5 | English Pronunciation Lesson

This lesson is Part 5  in the series on Pronouncing Verb Contractions in English:

Listen to the audio while reading the lesson:

May + have | Past Unsure Possibility

The verb “may” is used with “have” and the past participle of a main verb to express something that was possible in the past, but the speaker is unsure if that event actually occurred

To form a sentence with “may” to talk about a past possibility:

may + have + past participle of main verb


  • “I’m just not sure where he is–he may have gone home already.”

Here, the speaker guesses that the man has returned home, but she is not 100% certain.

Notice that I said *”may’ve” instead of “may have”.

(*Note: we do not write “may’ve”, even though we say it).

As the previous lessons on contracted verbs have already shown you, the music of English comes from the way native English speakers:

  1. stress their content words (meaning, they say them longer, louder, and higher in pitch); as well as
  2. de-stress their function words (meaning they say them quicker and more relaxed).

Function words in English are those that form the grammar and structure of a sentence and do not carry much content. These include auxiliary verbs, which accompany a main verb and add some grammatical meaning to the sentence. Because “have” is an auxiliary verb, we tend to de-stress it and contract it, then attach it to the verb preceding it.

So, to contract “have”, simply:

  • delete the first consonant sound [h];
  • de-stress and relax the vowel sound ([æ] –> [ə]);  and
  • connect it to the verb before it.

“Have” –> [əv]

May + have = *”may’ve”  [meyəv]

Did you hear how much more relaxed the vowel sound in “have” is?

  • *”may’ve”  [meyəv]

Remember that because “have” now begins with a vowel sound, you should connect your speech and pronounce the [y] in “may” at the beginning of “‘ve” [əv] –> [yəv].

  • *”may’ve”  [meyəv]

[ey] vowel sound

To produce the [ey] vowel sound, remember to:

  1. pull your lips back into a smile position; and
  2. produce the [y] sound at the end of the [ey]
    • “mey” [mey]
    • *”may’ve”  [meyəv]

Now, let’s put it all together and practice.

Listen and Repeat

  • “She may have gone to see a movie.”
  • “That phone call may have caused the crash.”
  • “I apologize. I may have misspoken earlier.”
  • “Do some more investigating–he may have lied to you!”

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