Learn to talk about possibility and speculation in the present! Here, you will learn speculation about present time and how to use “must,” “have to,” “might,” “may,” and “could” for speculation. You may want to check out this lesson if you are interested in improving your English.
Speculation About Present Time
Speculation is defined as forming opinions about what has happened or what might happen without knowing all the facts.
Degree of certainty: Degree of certainty shows that how sure we are—what we think the chances are—that something is true.
Degree of certainty: Present time (Positive)
If we are sure something is true in the present, we don’t need to use a modal.
- Why isn’t Sam in the class?
- He is sick. ( if I say, “Sam is sick,” I am sure; I am stating a fact that I am sure is true. My degree of certainty is 100%.)
- He must be sick. (95% Sure)
May, might and could are used to express a weak degree of certainty (Less than 50% sure)
- He may be sick.
- He might be sick.
- He could be sick.
Degree of certainty: Present time (Negative)
- Maria is not hungry.100% sure (Here the speaker is sure that she is not hungry.)
- Maria couldn’t be hungry. 99% sure (Here couldn’t and can’t forcefully express the idea that the speaker believes something is impossible.)
- Maria can’t be hungry. 99% sure:
- Maria must not be hungry. 95% sure (Here the speaker is expressing a logical conclusion, a “best guess.”)
The speaker can use may not/might not to mention a possibility (Less than 50% sure).
- Maria may not be hungry.
- Maria might not be hungry.
- I smell smoke.
- Something must be burning.
- The lights aren’t on.
- Jack mustn’t be at home.
- He may be writing a poem.
- They might buy a new car.
Note: Modal auxiliaries generally express speaker’s attitude, or “moods.” The modal auxiliaries in English are:(Can, could, had better, may, might, must, ought to, shall, should, will, would) you can use different modal verbs for speculations. Click here to know how to use modal verbs.