Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

What can you say in English when you want to wish someone well?

What can you say when you them to succeed or have good fortune in some way?

Today we’ll answer this question and we’ll start with a question from a listener.


Hi guys!

Lindsay, Michelle and Jessica you’re amazing!!! I’ve listened to your podcast for a little over a year and it has been very useful. My understanding of what I hear is much better and my concern with my mistakes, fears and  perfectionism have diminished thanks to you and congratulations for the work.

I have a question about the verb may. I do meditation and use an app called Calm. During one of the guidelines they use phrases such as: “May all beings be happy, may all beings be healthy, may all beings be safe and free from danger”.

I learned that when we start a sentence with a verb the phrase is usually interrogative, but I think these sentences are affirmative, the sense seems to be of affirmation for me. Please, can you explain it better?



Ana is right that we use “may” to make a polite request like when a child is asking her mother, “May I have seconds please?”

But that’s not the ONLY way to use “may” and we want to show you guys how to be creative and dynamic with your language.

Sometimes you might want to use it in a different way.

 So the phrase “May all beings be happy” is a phrase that I hear often at my meditation center.  

It’s a phrase that practicing Buddhists repeat when they do metta practice, but you don’t need to be Buddhist to use this grammar form of “may….” to wish someone well.


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Other times you might use “may” in this way:

  • At a wedding when you’re writing a card to the couple you might say, “May this special day bring you memories for years to come.”
  • In a graduation speech you might hear,  “May you find your purpose” or “May you always know the value of hard work.”
  • In a song you might also hear it used.

It’s not used as much in everyday casual speed.

It sounds formal, sentinmental, and fancy so it needs to be used for an important moment or for songs or cards.


What if you are wishing someone well. but you want to say it in a more casual way?

In that case, “may you…” might not work.

For example, your roommate has a big exam.

You wouldn’t say “May you pass your exam with flying colors.” You might only say that jokingly.


But you could say:

– I wish you the best on your exam.

-I’m pulling for you on that exam.

-Knock ’em dead on that exam.

-Hey best of luck on that exam.


What other questions do you have today?

Let us know in the comments below.

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