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Unit 13 modals and related verbs 3


 Degrees of probability A


 We can use modals and other phrases to talk about the probability that something will happen in the future. See table and following sections.



will, be certain to



must, cant



should, ought to, be likely to,



shouldnt, ought not to, be unlikely to



may, might, could, may not, might not





 Certainty and deduction B


 We use will and be certain to if we are certain that something will happen.

The new Jaguar will be launched at the Paris Motor Show.


 We use wont when we are certain something will not happen.

Im sorry, Christiane is on holiday. She wont be back until the 14th.


We can use probably and definitely with will and wont. Note the word order.

Shell probably be at the meeting. She probably wont be at the meeting.


 We use must and cant to show that something is very certain because it is logical. This is often called deduction.

Theres no answer from her phone. She must be in a meeting Both the meeting rooms are empty. She cant be in a meeting. Note that cant, not mustnt, is used here.


 Expectation C


 When we expect that something will happen we use should, ought to or be

likely to.

They should/ought to arrive at about 4.30. Our profits are likely to improve next year.

Lisbon should be a turning point in European economic policy.


When we expect that something will not happen we use shouldnt, ought not

to or be unlikely to.



Ive looked through the files, but its not there.

(= examined)

There shouldnt/ought not to be any problem.

Mr Blairs Lisbon strategy is unlikely to be enough to halt the deterioration

in Britains relationship with Europe.


 Uncertainty D


 When we are uncertain we use may, might or could. The meaning is



We may be able to deliver in two weeks.

I might have some more news for you next week. It could take a long time to arrange the finance.


There is no important difference between these modals in this context.


 The negative forms are may not and might not.

Friday is not a good day for the meeting. I may/might not be in the office on that day.


Note that could not is not used with this meaning.


 Degrees of probability in the past E


 For different degrees of probability in the past we use: modal verb + have +

past participle. See the table below.


 Notice in the table that will/wont have + past participle is an assumption (you think something is true although you have no proof). For certainty in the past we just use a normal past tense like the past simple.

assumption Youll have seen our new model. Its in all the shops.

deduction There was no answer from her phone. She must have been

in a meeting.

Both the meeting rooms were empty. She cant have been in a meeting.

expectation They should/ought to have arrived by now. I hope they

havent got lost.

uncertainty Yes, I see what you mean now. I could have been wrong about that.

Were only five minutes late. The talk might not have

started yet.

assumption You wont have seen our new model. Its not in the shops




Im sorry, I think we were cut off.

(= lose the signal in a phone call)

Christmas could have been an unhappy one last year if you ordered presents online. Many customers were still waiting for gifts to arrive long after the holidays had ended.


 Possibility F


 Be careful with the word possibility because it refers to two different ideas in English: uncertainty and ability. Study these examples:


UNCERTAINTY (there is a chance that something will happen)

Its possible that the share price will recover. (= the share price might/could



ABILITY (the mental skill or physical power to do something)

Its possible for our factory to produce 800 cars a month. (= our factory can

produce ...)


 To talk about a past possibility we use could + have + past participle.

I could have booked an earlier flight but it left at 7.30 in the morning. This is an opportunity that didnt happen.


To talk about a past impossibility we use couldnt + have + past participle.

I couldnt have booked the earlier flight - it was completely full.




Exercise 1 (A, B, C, D)

Underline the correct words.


1 Look at those clouds. I think it can / might / must rain.

2 Thats impossible. It cant be / mustnt be / may not be true.

3 Well done! You may be / must be / might be very pleased.

4 Next Thursday is a possibility. I might be / cant be / must be free in the afternoon.

5 Im not sure. I must not be / may not be / wont be able to get there in time.

6 That cant be / mustnt be / may not be David. Hes away at a conference,

7 Lisa isnt at her office. She can be / must be / mustnt be on her way here.

8 Lisa hasnt arrived yet. She should be / can be / cant be here soon.

9 Theres someone in reception. It can be / could be / mustnt be the engineer.

10 Sorry, I cant / may not / might come to your presentation. Im busy that afternoon.

11 Im not sure where Sue is. She could be / must be / can be at lunch.

12 Ive looked everywhere for Sue. She could be / must be / can be at lunch.


Exercise 2 (A, B, C, D)

Match each sentence 1-7 with a similar sentence a)-g).


1 They are likely to do it. 

2 They might/could do it. 

3 Theyre almost certain to do it. 

4 Theyll definitely do it. 

5 Theyre unlikely to do it. 

6 Theyre very unlikely do it. 

7 They definitely wont do it. 


a) Im sure that theyll do it.

b) Im nearly sure that theyll do it. c) Theyll probably do it.

d) Maybe theyll do it.

e) Im sure they wont do it.

f) They probably wont do it. g) They almost certainly wont do it.



Exercise 3 (A, B, D, F)

Complete the second sentence so it has a similar meaning to the first sentence using must, might, can or cant

1 Deliver by the end of the month? Yes, I think its possible to do that.



I was brought up in the country.

(= looked after from child to adult)

Deliver by the end of the month? Yes, I think we ..... do that.

2 Its possible that we will lose this client. We .. lose this client.

3 Im sure this isnt the right road. This .. be the right road.

4 Im sure you work late most nights. You .. work late most nights.

5 Its possible that Ill see you tomorrow, but Im not sure. I .. see you tomorrow.

6 Its possible for the new printer to print 20 sheets per minute.

The new printer .. print 20 sheets per minute.

7 Im afraid that Im unable to go to the Trade Fair this year.

Im afraid that I .. go to the Trade Fair this year.

8 I suppose you are Kate Perry. How do you do? You .. be Kate Perry. How do you do?


Exercise 4 (E, F)

Match each sentence 1-8 with its meaning a)-d).


1 He wont have arrived yet. 

2 Hell have arrived by now. 

3 He cant have arrived yet. 

4 He might have arrived by now. 

5 He could have arrived by now. 

6 He should have arrived by now. 

7 He must have arrived by now. 


a) 95-100\% probability of his arrival. b) 80\% probability of his arrival.

c) 40-60\% probability of his arrival. d) 0\% probability of his arrival.

8 He couldnt have arrived yet. 


Exercise 5 (A, B, C, D)

Complete the article with the words and phrases from the list below. The ideas in the text will help you.


definitely wont

is almost certain to

is likely to

is unlikely to


will definitely




The electricity was cut off.

(= lose the signal)

Since the beginning of this year unemployment has fallen from 2.5 million to 1.8 million, and (1) .. drop below 1.5 million by the end of the year. This (2) .. be good news for the government as unemployment is a very important issue in the country at the moment. By the time of the next election unemployment (3) .. even fall below 1 million it all depends

on the world economy and is impossible to predict with any certainty. Unfortunately inflation is going up steadily. It (4) .. reach 6\% by the end

of the year. However, the government (5)

.. take panic measures as inflation is similar to that of its trading partners and

(6) .. return to levels of the 1980s when

rates of 30\% or 40\% a year were quite common.



Exercise 6 (A, B, D, E)

Martin and Anne have arrived at check-in at Heathrow Airport. Complete their dialogue with must, might cant, must have, might have or cant have. Use each word once only.


MARTIN: Oh no, I cant find my passport.

ANNE: Youre joking.

MARTIN: No, really, its not in my briefcase.

ANNE: Well, it (1) .. be in your other bag. Quick have a look.

MARTINE: Its not there. Where on earth is it?

ANNE: Well, I dont know. Do you think you (2) .. left it at home?

MARTIN: Thats impossible. I (3) .. done. I checked I had it with me four times before I left the house.

ANNE: OK, calm down. What about checking your coat pockets? You never know, it (4) .. be there.

MARTINE: No, it isnt. This is ridiculous. Were going to miss our flight.

ANNE: Look, you (5) .. be looking in the right place.

CHECK-IN ATTENDENT: Excuse me, sir. Is that your passport there on the ground?

MARTIN: Oh, yes, so it is. Ah, I (6) .. dropped it when I was looking for the tickets.



I must write up that report.

(= write using notes made earlier)

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