#GrammarTrivia: Modals for Degrees of Certainty

This session will cover the discussion of modals to express degrees of certainty. ‘Must,’ ‘could,’ ‘might,’ ‘may,’ along with the present tense are used to express degrees of certainty. Now what are degrees of certainty?

In Indonesian, degrees of certainty could deliberately be translated into “tingkat kepastian.” Degrees of certainty in English can be divided into several groups. 1) 100% sure; 2) 90% sure; 3) 50% or less sure

You use ‘present tense’ (either simple or continues) when you express something that you know that it is 100% sure, in another word it’s a fact.

e.g a: “is it raining outside?” b: “yes. It is raining outside.” you know that it is a fact. You can see, smell, and taste the drops of water coming down from the cloud. No doubt!

‘must’ is used when you are 90% sure. You can use it when you predict the occurrence of something based on your own observation. Meaning to say, you have the symptoms that help you conclude that ‘the thing’ is gonna happen.

e.g: you had a friend named Rina and you two belonged to the same class. You knew that besides studying Rina had to work part time over night at a supermarket. The next day, your class started at 6.30 am. In the middle of the class, Rina fell asleep. To describe this situation, you can say “She must be tired.”

Why do we use ‘must’? Because you saw that Rina fell asleep in the class and you knew that Rina had to work over night last night. Yet you are not sure if it is the cause why she fell asleep. It could be because she was sick, or took a medication, or maybe she was just lazy. As there is a small room for uncertainty, then you use “must” to describe this situation.

‘may,’ ‘might,’ and ‘could’ are used when you are around 50% sure about something.

e.g a while ago you saw that Rina was sleeping in the class. Yet, she is disappeared now. You can’t find her anywhere. Then somebody asks “Where is Rina?”

As you are not sure about her whereabouts and you assume that Rina is in the toilet washing her face, then you can say “She might be in the toilet washing her face.” In this case, you have a bigger room of uncertainty. It is solely your assumption with no observation. Moreover, you have no symptoms to make you sure that she is in the toilet.

That’s it for today. I hope it helps. Thank you so much and see youuuuuuuu! :)


Compiled and written by @wisznu at @EnglishTips4u on October 15, 2015

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