(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','https://www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-149431051-2', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview'); setTimeout("ga('send','event','adjusted bounce rate','page visit 20 seconds or more')",20000);
Learning Zone
Learning Zone
Grammar

Modal verbs – speculation & deduction

Level: B2
Article navigation:

One of the functions of modal verbs is to express speculation.
Depending on the degree of probability of our deduction, we use different verbs.

Therefore:

  •  The verb “must” is an almost absolute certainty:

The phone’s ringing. It must be Paul.

  • Its opposite is “can’t” and “couldn’t”, meaning that a situation does not happen.

The phone’s ringing, but it can’t be Paul. He’s still at work.

  • The verbs “may/might/could” are used to express possibilities, but could is a little weaker in its expression:

The phone’s ringing. It may be Paul.
The phone’s ringing. It might be Paul.
The phone’s ringing. It could be Paul. 

probability verb example
0% Simple Present
(negative sentence)
He doesn’t know.
unlikely can’t/ couldn’t He can’t know.
50% probability could He could know.
quite likely may/ might He may know.
very likely must He must know.
100% probability Simple Present He knows.
© 2019 engxam. All rights reserved.