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Unit 2: English In A Minute
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Session 10

Welcome to English In A Minute. Give us a minute and we'll give you a hot tip about English. Grammar, vocabulary... there's so much to learn! And all taught by your favourite BBC Learning English staff!

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Modals of deduction

Do you have a minute to spare to learn some English? Saskia can't do better explaining these modals of deduction. Give us 60 seconds and we'll give you the English!

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Saskia
Hi, everyone! Welcome back to English In A Minute. We're going to look at how to use modal verbs when making a deduction – that's when we make guesses about what is happening. Let's look at some examples.

Use must when you are certain or almost certain that something is true. For example: Phil's hair is wet – it must be rainy.

Use can't to say when you are certain something is not true. For example: Phil's hair is wet – it can't be sunny.

We can use might, may or could to talk about possibility. Let's look at some examples. Sam is late for work. We don't know why Sam is late, but we can make a guess. For example: Her car could be broken. Another possibility is: She might still be asleep. One final possibility now: There may be a lot of traffic.

Well, it must be time to finish now. Thanks for joining us. Bye!

Modals of deduction

Modals
All modal verbs are followed by a bare infinitive. With the exception of ‘have to’ modal verbs do not change form to show person or time.

  • He must be at work
  • She can't be at work.
  • They could be at work.
  • He might be at work.
  • She may be at work.

Deduction
A deduction is a guess about what we believe is happening or believe is true. They are often based on a reason why.

  • Look at those dark clouds. It must be about to rain.

Must
Use must when you are certain or almost certain that something is true.

  • Phil's hair is wet – it must be rainy.

Can't
Use can't to say when you are certain something is not true.

  • Phil's hair is wet – it can't be sunny.

May, might, could
We can use might, may or could to talk about possibility.

  • Her car could be broken.
  • She might be asleep.
  • There may be a lot of traffic.

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