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Adverbials of probability

Level: beginner

We use adverbials of probability to show how certain we are about something. The commonest adverbials of probability are:

certainly definitely maybe possibly
clearly obviously  perhaps probably
Adverbials of probability 1


maybe and perhaps usually come at the beginning of the clause:

Perhaps the weather will be fine.
Maybe it won't rain.

Other adverbs of possibility usually come in front of the main verb:

He is certainly coming to the party.
Will they definitely be there?
We will possibly come to England next year.

or after the present simple or past simple of be

They are definitely at home.
She was obviously very surprised.

But these adverbs sometimes come at the beginning of a clause for emphasis:

Obviously she was very surprised.
Possibly we will come to England next year.

Adverbials of probability 2


Adverbials of probability 3



Hello Angie,

The position of the adverbs in all of the phrases you propose except 'they shouldn't definitely come' is correct, and there is no difference in meaning between them. You can see some good explanations of this topic on this Cambridge Dictionary page and this BBC page. After you've read through them, if you have any other specific questions, please let us know and we'll do our best to help you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Hello Achilleas,

If you say 'I wouldn't be surprised if the price is X', it means that you think the price is X but you're not sure. So I'd say 'possibility' is the best answer of the options you mention.

By the way, if he hasn't seen them already, your son might be interested in LearnEnglish Teens (for adolescents) or LearnEnglish Kids (for younger kids).

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I have a big problem with adverbs in English. If we say adverbs describe the way of action or verbs so we can't use the for adj. But, in contrast, I've seen many times in the books I've read that the author use adverb in a weird way. let me give you some example:
a sufficiently serious motive
(this is the full sentence: For one thing, he denies that mere fascination or curiosity is a sufficiently serious motive for doing history.)
now what is the diffrence in between in their meaning:
a sufficiently serious motive
a sufficient serious motive
thanks in advance for your help

Hi Chemist,

'A sufficient serious motive' isn't good English to my ears. It sounds like 'sufficient' and 'serious' are both trying to describe 'motive', but then you'd want a comma or 'and' between them.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Question 6 above: Maybe we should start again.
is again an an adverbial of time? if yes, is it frequency?

Hello grammar2015,

'Again' is an adverb of time, which includes adverbs of frequency. Strictly, 'again' tells us that something has been done before, but does not answer the question 'how often' and, therefore, does not describe frequency. However, please remember that these are semantic categories rather than grammatical categories, so they overlap and are quite subjective. I wouldn't worry overly about whether or not the name 'adverb of frequency' is appropriate; the important thing is that it is an adverb and that you are clear on the meaning.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I don't Understand what you mean with. " but in after am, is, are, was, were"
Please, could you explain it to me.

Hello nicoll.velastegui,

This was a mistake on our part – the word 'in' should not have been there. We're sorry if that caused you any confusion. It has now been corrected thanks to you!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, in question number 8 of adverbials of probability exercise.
Can it be "I possibly can't refuse." I'm not quite understand "I can't possibly refuse."
If "can't" and "refuse" are separate. Then I can't see if "possibly" is describe which word.

Hello noomneem,

Here it's not a case of any sort of semantic logic, but rather a rule. Adverbs of probability and certainty (such as 'possibly') usually go in mid-position, which means that they go after auxiliary verbs. 'can't' is a modal auxiliary verb, and so 'possibly' should come after it: 'I can't possibly refuse' is correct.

By the way, adverbs of probability and certainty go before a one-part verb (e.g. He certainly looks upset) unless it is the verb 'be', which they go after (e.g. She's probably at home).

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team