Everything about the French word "Peut-être"

Get prepared to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the basic word “Peut-être”.

This include a detailed guide of what it is and how you can use it in a casual conversation with an audio example. But wait, we also sprinkled useful things like slow pronunciation audio, dialogue example and more!

In case you are interested, you will also find our others words explained on this page and the complete directory of all our French words guides on this page. Ready to learn? C’est parti ! (Let’s go!)

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French to English translation

Audio pronunciation

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does peut-être mean?


The literal meaning is:

  • Peut → (It) can
  • Être → Be

It’s the most famous French way to say “Maybe” or “Perhaps” or even “Possibly“.

We can use it in different ways as you will see in the next section. Also, don’t forget to check the “Synonyms” section below for all the variations of “Peut-être” you can use!

How to use it

First, like in English, do not confuse the expression “Peut-être” with a hyphen which means “Maybe” and the group of words “Peut être” without hyphen which means “Can/May be“.

For example, if you want to say “He can/may be stupid sometimes” → “Il peut être bête parfois” (WITHOUT hyphen). But if you want to say “Maybe he is stupid” → “Peut-être qu’il est bête” (WITH hyphen)

The structure “Peut-être + que” is used very often when you want to precise what your “Maybe” is about.

Another structure is to put it at the end of your sentence to add uncertainty when you are not sure about your assumption or statement: “Elle ne voulait pas venir, peut-être” → “She didn’t want to come, maybe“.

Finally, you can use it as a standalone answer when you are unsure and can’t say “Yes” or “No“. For example, someone asks you “Tu viens ce soir ?” (Are you coming tonight?) but you don’t know yet, you can say: “Peut-être” (Maybe).

Synonyms and similarities

  • Peut-être bien. (“Maybe so“)
  • Peut-être que oui (“Maybe so“)
  • Peut-être bien que oui (“Maybe so“)
  • Possible. (“Possible“)
  • Possiblement. (“Possibly“)
  • C’est possible. (“It’s possible“)
  • C’est tout à fait possible. (“It’s completely possible“)
  • Éventuellement. (“Eventually“)
  • Ça se peut. (“That could be“)
  • Ça se pourrait (bien). (“That might be“)
  • P’t-être. (“Maybe“)(Informal, pronounced: “Ptetr“)
  • P’t-êt. (“Maybe“)(Informal, pronounced: “Ptet“)
  • p-e. (“Maybe“)(Texting)

And some antonyms:

  • Peut-être pas. (“Maybe not“)
  • Peut-être que non. (“Maybe not“)
  • Sûrement pas. (“Surely not“)
  • Certainement pas. (“Certainly not“)
  • Probablement pas. (“Probably not“)

Example in a story with translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this idiom in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Chasse à la boucle d'oreille
Earring hunt
Karine:   Chéri, tu as vu ma boucle d’oreille ?
Honey, did you see my earring?
Rémi:   Tu ne viens pas de la mettre il y a deux minutes ?
Didn’t you just put it on two minutes ago?
Karine:   Si, mais quelques secondes après, elle a disparu…
Yes, but a few seconds later, it disappeared…
Rémi:   Oh mon Dieu ! Et si c’était… un fantôme ?!
Oh my God! What if it was… a ghost?!
Karine:   Très drôle, très drôle. Mais sérieusement, tu as une idée ?
Very funny, very funny. But seriously, do you have an idea?
Rémi:   Eh bien… laisse-moi réfléchir. Tu as cherché dans la salle de bain ?
Well… let me think. Did you search in the bathroom?
Karine:   Oui, bien sûr.
Yes, of course.
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