difference between: "I may buy..." and "I may have to buy..."

English Grammar Tests, Elementary Level

ESL/EFL Test #251 [color=blue]“Modal Verbs (3)”, question 8

I’m going to make a cabinet out of our spare wood pile. However, I have to buy some extra wood for the finishing touches.

(a) can
(b) must
© may
(d) couldn’t

English Grammar Tests, Elementary Level

ESL/EFL Test #251 [color=blue]“Modal Verbs (3)”, answer 8

I’m going to make a cabinet out of our spare wood pile. However, I may have to buy some extra wood for the finishing touches.

Correct answer: © may

Your answer was: [color=green]correct
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What is the difference between: “I may buy…” and “I may have to buy…”

Thank you

I may buy = I will possibly buy, but I will have the choice. I don’t have to buy it and I may not really need to buy it.

I may have to buy = If I want to have enough of this, then it is possible that I will need to buy some more. I won’t have a choice because I will have run out.

I like this bread. I may buy some more when I next visit the market. (choice)
I’m not sure whether I have enough bread left to last all day tomorrow. I may have to buy some more in the morning. (no choice if I don’t want to run out)

Hi Alesger,

‘May’ as a modal often expresses ‘possibility’ as in: It may rain this afternoon. We are not sure because we don’t know.

‘Have to’ suggests ‘necessity’ as in: I have to take an umbrella with me because it is raining.

If you join those two sentences together, it becomes: As it may rain this afternoon, I may have to take an umbrella with me. In that sentence the necessity (have to) is limited to a possibility (may).

Alan

Hi Alan,

So if we join the two sentences from the above test, it becomes:
As I may run out of wood, I may have to by some extra wood.

Does it have the same meaning with the sentence:
If I run out of wood, I will buy some extra wood.

Thanks

Hi.

‘I will buy’ doesn’t indicate the necessity to buy that you find in I will have to buy.’

Alan

I understand that it’s for sure that I will have to buy some extra wood for the finishings.
Why not?