The future: degrees of certainty

The future: degrees of certainty

Do you know how to use phrases like will definitely, be likely to and probably won't to say how sure you are about future events? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how we can express different degrees of certainty about the future.

I'll definitely be at the meeting, don't worry.
She's likely to say yes if you ask nicely.
It probably won't rain later according to the weather forecast.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: The future – degrees of certainty: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We can show how certain we are about the future by using modal verbs and other expressions.

Modal verbs and adverbs

We can use modal verbs (such as will, might, may or could) and adverbs (such as probably and definitely) to show how sure we are.

Very sure

People will definitely work from home more in the future.
Robots definitely won't replace all human jobs.


Donna will really enjoy this film.
You won't regret it.

Almost sure

We'll probably finish the project by tomorrow.
He probably won't have enough time.

Not sure

I might go to the party, but I'm not sure yet.
He hasn't studied much, so he might not pass the exam.

When you are not sure, we can also use may, could and may not. However, we don't usually use could not to talk about the future.

Other expressions

We can also use other expressions such as be bound to and be likely to, or verbs such as think and doubt.

Very sure

He's bound to feel nervous before his driving test.
She's certain to get that job!
He's certain that he'll get here on time.
There's no chance that we'll ever win the lottery.
There's no way that my boss will give me the day off. 


I'm sure that you'll do well in the interview.
Are you sure that you won't be available?

Almost sure

The government's likely to call an election soon.
Ali's unlikely to be invited to the party.
There's a good chance that it'll snow this week.
There's not much chance that I'll finish this essay tonight.
She thinks he'll be able to help.
I don't think we'll have petrol-based cars in the future.
I doubt they'll have any trouble finding the address.
What do you expect mobile phones will be like in ten years' time?

Not sure

There's a chance that she'll be back at work tomorrow.
There's a chance that he might come and visit us next week.
I think we might see more of these problems in the next few years.
I'm not sure that I'll be able to finish this pizza!

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar B1-B2: The future – degrees of certainty: 2

Language level

Average: 4.3 (20 votes)

Submitted by vihara on Wed, 17/01/2024 - 14:57


What's this sentence pattern? "Will definitely be making this"

Hi vihara,

This structure is the future continuous (will + be + -ing verb). The subject (e.g. "I") is dropped here, as presumably this is informal speech.

It shows a high degree of certainty.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Anamyszka on Thu, 31/08/2023 - 06:50


Hi, can you please recommend somewhere to learn this in a different way? I thought I understood this but my second grammar test was worse than the first one after I read the explanation

Hi Anamyszka,

Oh dear! Actually, this is not uncommon when we're learning things. It's often expressed as 'one step back, two steps forward' meaning that when we take on new knowledge our performance often gets temporarily worse while we try to assimilate the knowledge and work out how it fits with what we already know. My advice would be to give it a little time and come back to it. Learning a language is a complex process, even if we wish it were more like taking a tablet for a headache!


In terms of different approaches, this page takes a concepts (degrees of certainty) and looks at many different ways of expressing it. In other words, you look at many different structures and phrases linked together by a similar meaning or use. An alternative would be to look at one structure (say, for example, modal verbs) and the various ways in which these can be used. Perhaps this approach is better suited to your learning style. You can use the grammar reference section to look at pages more focused on particular structures if you wish.


Finally, here's another summary of how to use the future which may be helpful to you:



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Victoria7 on Tue, 30/08/2022 - 18:48


Good afternoon to you all
I have a question regarding the use of will for predictions as it is always taught together with be going to to show one of the differences between these two when talking about the future (will for predictions without evidence and be going to for predictions with evidence). 'Will' used for predictions to express a strong degree of certainty is related with the previous use I mentioned? I mean, I can say 'it will rain tomorrow' implying both a prediction without evidence and a strong degree of certainty? This latter use would be even stronger if I add an adverb like 'definitely' for example, but the adverb is optional in that case.
I don't know if I was able to explain myself but thanks in advance!

Hello Victoria7,

Like all modal verbs, will has a number of uses (meanings), but the core meaning when referring to the future is belief. You can think of 'It will rain tomorrow' as meaning 'I believe it will rain tomorrow'. Generally, will describes a strong belief, verging on certainty. When our belief is weaker we use other modals such as might, may or could, or we add an adverb or adverbial phrase like maybe, perhaps or similar.


I hope that helps to clarify it for you.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marua on Wed, 23/03/2022 - 16:46


Are these sentences both correct?
1. I'm not exactly sure, but I think she will be home by 8 o'clock.
2. I'm not exactly sure, but I think she won't be home by 8 o'clock.
Are both verb forms 'will be' and 'won't be' grammatically correct?
Thank you.

Submitted by GrammarLover on Fri, 18/02/2022 - 19:52


Hello LearnEnglish Team,

I am an English teacher and I would like to ask you something just to confirm I am right. I studied English many years and I have been teaching English for 13 years. This topic about degrees of certainty is a topic I have taught all these years but I have a tiny question about it. All grammar and text books I have always seen say what you say here.

When referring to future probability, they include the following expressions: "Subject + to be likely/unlikely + infinitive" or "it is likely/unlikely + that + clause" and "will probably+verb". So these are the expressions I have always taught and the answer key of ALL English text books includes these expressions but NO grammar explanation or answer key includes "it is probable + that + will". Therefore, I have always assumed as a student and, later, as a teacher of English that, in English, the natural way of saying what is probable is by using this expression with the word LIKELY (and not the word "probable"). I just would like to confirm that in English we use this expression with "likely", but not with the word "probable". For example "It is likely that the government will raise interest rates this year" (NOT "it is probable...") or "It is highly likely that the meeting is cancelled" (NOT "probable"). All English grammar books only give this expression with "likely", not with the word "probable". Just would like to confirm that what I teach is correct: that this expression is only used with the word "likely/unlikely". Many thanks in advance.