Introduction to Modals for Options and Possibilities

Modals Options and Possibilities The English Language Coach

Introduction to Modals for Options and Possibilities      Present, Past, and Future.

Here we have an introduction to Modals for options and possibilities for the present, past and future.

Options and Possibilities in the Present.

May/might/must/could (not) + verb (base form).

We can use may/might/must/could (not)+ base form of the verb to talk about options and possibilities that we are thinking or talking about at the moment.

If you are mostly sure, say 95%, they will use the modal must, as in:

  • I must be late.
  • I must text my boss.
  • Sam can’t be hungry.
  • John must not (mustn’t) be hungry as he went to be without dinner.

When you are about 50%  or less sure, you will use the modals may/ might or could as in

  • I might be late.
  • She could be asleep.
  • Alison may not be in her office.

Options and Possibilities in the Past.

May/might/could/must + have + past participle.

You can use may/might/must/could (not) + have + past participle to talk about the past and what we think happened.

If you are sure that something is true in the past, you don’t need to use a modal, use the verb to be in its past form:

  • She was late.
  • He was in Spain.
  • Javier and Frank were not interested.

If you are mostly sure, say 95%, you would say:

  • She must have been late.
  • They might have been in the office.
  • George could not have been with Gina.

When you are about 50% or less sure:

  • She might have been late.
  • They may not have been at the meeting.
  • She could have been sick.
  • Anna and Frank could not have been to Germany.

Options and Possibilities in the Future.

Must/may/might/could (not) + be + ing.

You can talk about possibilities or options in the future by using must/may/might/could (not)+ be + ing.

When you are sure 100%:

  • He will do well at the Trade Fair.
  • I am going to phone the client later.
  • Sylvia and her client will be here on time.
  • I am not going to write that email.
  • I will not be here next week.

If you are mostly sure, say 95%, you would say:

  • He should do well on the stand at the Trade Fair.
  • He should not be at work while sick.
  • Mary ought to do well on the quiz.
  • Louis ought to call at five.

(Note: ought is not used a lot these days)

When you are about 50% or less sure:

  • She may do well as the new lead manager.
  • We may not be at the conference.
  • He might do well at the marathon.
  • Jean might quit when you insist that she works at the office.

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