We use may, might and could to say that something is possible, but not certain:
They may come by car. (= Maybe they will come by car.)
They might be at home. (= Maybe they are at home.)
If we don't hurry, we could be late. (= Maybe we will be late.)
We use can to make general statements about what is possible:
It can be very cold here in winter. (= It is sometimes very cold here in winter.)
You can easily get lost in this town. (= People often get lost in this town.)
We do not use can to talk about specific events:
Notice the difference in meaning between can and may/might/could:
- can and may/might/could
We use may have, might have or could have to make guesses about the past:
I haven't received your letter. It may have got lost in the post.
It's ten o'clock. They might have arrived by now.
Where are they? They could have got lost.
We use could to make general statements about the past:
It could be very cold there in winter. (= It was sometimes very cold there in winter.)
You could easily get lost in that town. (= People often got lost in that town.)
- could and could have
We use can't or cannot to say that something is impossible:
That can't be true.
You cannot be serious.
We use can't have or couldn't have to say that a past event was impossible:
They know the way here. They can't have got lost!
If Jones was at work until six, he couldn't have done the murder.
We use must to show we are sure something is true and we have reasons for our belief:
It's getting dark. It must be quite late.
You haven’t eaten all day. You must be hungry.
We use should to suggest something is true and we have reasons for our suggestion:
Ask Miranda. She should know.
It's nearly six o'clock. They should arrive soon.
We use must have and should have for the past:
They hadn't eaten all day. They must have been hungry.
You look happy. You must have heard the good news.
It's nearly eleven o'clock. They should have arrived by now.
- Probability 1
- Probability 2
- Probability 3
- Probability 4
- Probability 5