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Modals and Possibility: May, Might, Could, Must


Ray and June are talking at work.

Ray: Hey, did you see the boss looked in a really bad mood as he came in today. I wonder what that’s all about?

June: Strange, he looked happy yesterday.

Ray: Well, it may just be he had a row with his wife this morning.

June: It might. But he may have had an accident on the way in.

Ray: Yeah or he could have found out about you Skyping instead of working. Haha.

June: I hope not. Now look, Rita is going into his office and she doesn’t look happy. It must be something to do with her.

Ray: Yeah you’re probably right. Hmm, I wonder what that is. Well, we better get back to work anyway before he sees us gossiping.

June: Yeah. See you later.

Grammar Notes

Point 1: We can use modals to indicate how sure we are about something.
  1. That flashing light may mean there is an accident ahead. (Possible but not sure)
  2. He has blood all over him, so he must be the one who did it. (Probable or strong possibility)
Point 2: Strength of possibility.
  1. May/Might                      Slight possibility
  2. Could
  3. Must                               Strong possibility or probability.
Point 3: If a verb follows a modal verb, it will always be in the base form (V1).
  1. He might go next year ( not: may goes)
  2. She must be happy. (not: she must is happy)
Point 4: Explanation
  1. It may mean he is angry.
  2. It must be the way to the hospital.
Answer these questions about the interview.

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Vocabulary Challenge

Complete the sentences with the words below.
left • tea • lost
called • tired
  1. You worked all day. You must be .
  2. Bob is not here. He might have gotten .
  3. I can't find my wallet. I may have it at home.
  4. Instead of coffee you could have had .
  5. She not at work today. She may have in sick.