Kamoshiremasen: How to Say Maybe in Japanese

How do you say “maybe” in Japanese? One expression that you will use hear and often use is かもしれません (kamoshiremasen). In English, this word means “perhaps” or “might.” You can use it with verbs, adjectives, or nouns. It’s also easy to learn, so let’s get right into it!

Kamoshiremasen is the polite form (also known as the desu/masu form) that you use when talking to people who have a higher social status than you (your boss, your teacher, etc.). If you are having a conversation with friends or family, you can use the plain form “かもしれない (kamoshirenai)” or the even more casual “かも (kamo).”

How to Use Kamoshiremasen

Kamoshiremasen is used with verbs, I-adjectives and Na-adjectives, and nouns:

  • Verb in plain form (present or past tense) + かもしれません (kamoshiremasen)*
  • I-Adjective in plan form (present or past tense) + かもしれません (kamoshiremasen)*
  • Na-adjectives in plain form (without na) (present or past tense) + かもしれません (kamoshiremasen)*
  • Noun + かもしれません (kamoshiremasen)*

*Note:  We will explain the grammar for verbs, adjectives, and nouns using the polite かもしれません (kamoshiremasen). However, feel free to use the more casual かもしれない (kamoshirenai) or the very casual かも (kamo) if you’re talking with people you are close with (friends, family, close co-workers, etc.)

Kamoshiremasen With Verbs: Plain Tense + Kamoshiremasen

Expressing something that might or might not happen with verbs are easy: just add かもしれません directly after the verb. It works with both the affirmative and negative verb in the present or past form.

Present Tense Affirmative Verb Examples:

1. 明日は雨がふるかもしれない。
(Ashita wa ame ga furu kamoshirenai.)
It might rain tomorrow.

2. 来週はやっと事務所に行くかもしれない。
(Raishū wa yatto jimusho ni iku kamoshiremasen.)
Next week I might finally go to the office.

Present Negative Verb Examples:

1. 傘を持ってきたけど、今日は雨が降らないかもしれない。
(Kasa o motte kita kedo, kyō wa ame ga furanai kamoshirenai.)
I brought an umbrella with me, but perhaps it will not rain today.

2. 昨日健くんは体調が悪かったから、今日は来ないかもしれない。
(Kinō Ken kun wa taichō ga warukatta kara, kyō wa konai kamoshirenai.)
Ken wasn’t feeling good yesterday, so he might not come today.  

Past Tense Verb Examples:

1. 昨日マネージャーは休んだかもしれません。
(Kinō manējā wa yasunda kamoshiremasen.)
The manager might have taken some time off yesterday.

2. 最近部活で忙しすぎて昨日の宿題をやったかどうか覚えてないくらい。。。やらなかったかも。
(Saikin bukatsu de isogashi sugite kinō no shukudai o yatta ka dō ka kurai oboetenai kurai…yaranakatta kamo.)
I’ve been so busy with my club activities lately that I don’t even remember if I did my homework yesterday…I might not have done it.  

Progressive Tense Verbs + Kamoshiremasen

Progressive tense verbs in Japanese are used to describe actions currently taking place, such as “I am eating (食べています – tabete imasu).” Verbs in the progressive tense can also describe the state of something that is continuing, like “I am awake (起きています – okite imasu; the state of being “up” is continuing).” We add かもしれません after a verb in the progressive form to add a level of uncertainty and to talk about our conjecture.

Examples:

1. もう7時だ!郵便局はもう閉まっているかもしれない。
(Mō shichi-ji da! Yūbinkyoku wa mō shimatteiru kamoshirenai.)
It’s already 7 PM. The post office might already be closed.

2. まだ早いけど、彼はもう起きているかもしれない。電話をしてみる。
(Mada hayai kedo, kare wa mō okiteiru kamoshirenai. denwa o shite miru.)
It’s still early, but perhaps he’s awake. I’ll try calling.

I-Adjectives + Kamoshiremasen

For affirmative form I-adjectives (present and past from): add かもしれません after the I-adjective.

Examples:

1. 明日はレポートを出すのが難しいかもしれません。
(Ashita wa repōto o dasu no ga muzukashii kamoshiremasen.)
It might be hard to submit the report tomorrow.

2. 今時間があるので、試験を受けるのがいいかもしれない。 
(Ima jikan ga aru node shiken o ukeru no ga ii kamoshirenai.)
It might be best to take the exam now that you have a lot of spare time.

3. 食べ物をもっと買えばよかったかもしれません。
(Tabemono o motto kaeba yokatta kamoshiremasen.)
Maybe I should have bought more food.  

For negative form I-adjectives: remove the final “い” and replace it with くない (kunai) + かもしれません(kamoshiremasen).

Examples:

1. テストは思ったより難しくないかもしれません。
(Tesuto wa omotta yori muzukashikunai kamoshiremasen.)
The test might not be as hard as I thought.

2. 幼稚園の子供たちにこの本はふさわしくないかもしれない。
(Yōchien no kodomotachi ni kono hon wa fusawashikunai kamoshirenai.)
This book might not be appropriate for nursery school children.  

Na-Adjectives + Kamoshiremasen

For affirmative na-adjectives (present form): remove the な (na) and add かもしれません after the na-adjective.

For affirmative na-adjectives in the past form, add だった (datta) + かもしれません (example 2 and 3 below).

Examples:

1. あそこまで登るのは危険かもしれない。
(Asoko made noboru no wa kiken kamoshirenai.)
Climbing up there might be dangerous.

2. この手間がかかる料理をするのに、その道具があったら便利だったかもしれない。
(Kono tema ga kakaru ryōri o suru no ni, sono dōgu ga attara benri datta kamoshirenai.)
That tool might have been useful to make this complicated recipe.

3. あの人は昔から変だったかもしれない。
(Ano hito wa mukashi kara hen datta kamoshirenai.)
That person might have been strange since a long time ago.  

For present negative na-adjectives: add じゃない (ja nai – more casual) or ではない (dewa nai -more formal) + かもしれません

For past tense negative na-adjectives: add じゃなかった (ja nakatta – more casual) or ではなかった (dewa nakatta – a little more formal) + かもしれません

Examples:

1. 前はピアノを練習したけど、今は上手ではないかもしれません。
(Mae wa piano o renshū shita kedo, ima wa jо̄zu dewa nai kamoshiremasen.)
I practiced the piano before but I might not be good at it now.

2. 意外と明日までに書類を提出するのは無理じゃないかもしれない。
(Igai to ashita made ni shorui o teishutsu suru no wa muri ja nai kamoshirenai.)
Contrary to expectations, submitting the document by tomorrow might not be impossible.

3. 東京で住んでいた所は街から離れていたけど、ここみたいにこんなに静かじゃなかったかもしれない。
(Tōkyō de sunde ita tokoro wa machi kara hanareteita kedo, koko mitai ni konna ni shizuka jya nakatta kamo shirenai.)
The place I used to live in Tokyo was away from the downtown area, so maybe it wasn’t as quiet as it is here. 

Kamoshiremasen with Nouns

For nouns: add かもしれません to the end of the noun or です form (for past and negative forms)

Noun + かもしれません Example:

学生かもしれませ
(gakusei kamoshiremasen)
Might be a student

Negative form noun: add じゃない (ja nai) or ではない (dewa nai) + かもしれません

Example:

学生じゃないかもしれません
(gakusei ja nai kamoshiremasen)
Might not be a student

Past form noun: add だった + かもしれません

Example:

学生だったかもしれません
(gakusei datta kamoshiremasen)
Might have been a student

Negative past form noun: add じゃなかった (ja nakatta) or ではなかった (dewa nakatta)+ かもしれません

Example:

学生じゃなかったかもしれません
(gakusei ja nakatta kamoshiremasen)
Might not be a student

Sentence Examples:

1. 25歳に見えるけど、学生かもしれない。
(25 sai ni mieru kedo, gakusei kamoshirenai.)
He looks 25 years old, but he might be a student.

2. 雨と風が強くて、台風かもしれない。
(Ame to kaze ga tsuyokute, taifū kamoshirenai.)
The wind and the rain are so strong; it might be a typhoon.

Tabun and Daro vs Kamoshirenai

Last, let’s look at some other expressions used to talk about the possibility or something in Japanese: 多分 (tabun) usually paired with だろう (darō). 

The main difference in nuance between kamoshiremasen and tabun paired with darō is that the latter expresses a slightly higher level of certainty that we can translate in English with “probably.” In contrast, kamoshiremasen is used to express your personal feelings or thoughts. 

Examples:

1. 彼女は多分彼氏がいるだろう。
(Kanojo wa tabun kareshi ga iru darō.)
She probably has a boyfriend.

2. 空が曇ってきて多分雨が降るんだろう。
(Sora ga kumottekite, tabun ame ga furun darō.)
The sky got cloudy, so it probably will rain.

Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Send this to a friend