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

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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

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Adverbials of probability 3

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Submitted by Elma on Thu, 14/05/2020 - 11:54

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Hi. I want to know if there's a difference or not in these two sentences below: A. The eggs are almost all white. B. All the eggs are almost white.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 15/05/2020 - 07:05

In reply to by Elma

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Hello Elma,

There is a difference:

 

> The eggs are almost all white - there are one or two eggs which are brown OR the eggs are white with brown spots or marks.

 

> The eggs are almost white - their colour is not quite white, but is very similar to white.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Wed, 27/06/2018 - 07:48

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Hello Sir Please let me know whether this sentence is right or wrong. Where did you go to yesterday? I write it without 'to' e.g. Where did you go yesterday ? Are both correct or only the second? please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hi Lal,

The first sentence is not correct; the second one is.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Sun, 24/06/2018 - 13:11

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Hello Sir I have seen on your website this: 'Maybe we should start again.' My question: Is it all right to write may and be together or 'may be' with a gap or both are correct ? Please let me know. thank you. Regards

Hello Lal,

The word maybe means the same as the word perhaps. It is used to describe something which is uncertain but possible.

The phrase may be is a modal verb with the infinitive be. Other infinitives can be used: may go, may need, may want, may win, may lose etc. In this use may has a range of possible meanings. You can read about those on our pages about modal verbs.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Seongsoo on Sat, 30/09/2017 - 15:41

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Hi I have a question about the word "definitely" In the conversation, A: Why didn't you call me last night? B: I definitely called you. You didn't answer. Can I use the word "definitely" in the above sentence? Is it a correct sentence grammatically? Is it a natural sentence in English?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 01/10/2017 - 08:19

In reply to by Seongsoo

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Hello Seongsoo,

Yes, it is fine to use 'definitely' here. We actually use the word quite often when we are talking about things we are sure that we remember.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Angie9 on Thu, 19/01/2017 - 11:06

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Good morning, If we use the adverbs in sentences which have should, would or won´t, where would we place them? Before the action verb? for example... "they should definetly come" or "they definetly should come" and in the negative of the same sentence? "They shouldn´t definetly come" or "they definetly shouldn´t come" in questions I asume it would be "Should they definetly come?" Am I right?? Thanks so much

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by chemist1990 on Sun, 02/08/2015 - 12:26

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Hi 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 and a sufficient serious motive thanks in advance for your help

Submitted by AdamJK on Mon, 03/08/2015 - 00:37

In reply to by chemist1990

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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, Adam The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by grammar2015 on Fri, 12/06/2015 - 04:57

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

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 14/06/2015 - 07:26

In reply to by grammar2015

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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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nicoll.velastegui on Sun, 24/05/2015 - 23:56

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

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 25/05/2015 - 08:15

In reply to by nicoll.velastegui

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by noomneem on Thu, 13/11/2014 - 05:16

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amit D. Chavan on Fri, 28/03/2014 - 06:36

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Hello, Nobody is surrounding to me to speak English with me, even though I practice on own myself, I speak daily routine sentences but I don't understand, am I speaking in right way or not? is there any way to find that my sentences are correct or not?

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 28/03/2014 - 07:27

In reply to by Amit D. Chavan

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Hello Amit,

I think the only way to really get correction for your speaking is to have a local teacher who can work with you.  However, remember that correction, while it can be helpful, is by no means essential when you are learning to speak (in contrast to, for example, write in) a language.  Most children learn to speak their first language with little or no correction from their parents.  Provided that you are, as you say, practising producing the language, and provided also that you have access to good models to listen to and emulate, you should be able to make progress even without correction.

Try to use the audio and video materials here on LearnEnglish as models.  Use the transcripts and try saying them aloud after you have listened to the original; then try saying them at the same time as listening so you can try to copy the speed and rhythm of the original version.

Best wishes and good luck!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Othon Dominguez on Wed, 25/09/2013 - 21:07

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I got 155/155 I look forward to have same luck when I do the IELTS.

Submitted by Dolphinzhu on Tue, 02/07/2013 - 13:29

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Hi English team  ,

I need your help !

My English is not good . especially bad in grammar . I have a question .

There are two sentences below  which one is right ?

I am lying in my bed !

I am lying on my bed !

Hi Dolphinzhu,

Your English seems quite good to me!

Both sentences are correct, but have slightly different meanings.

'...in my bed' (or 'in bed') means you are under the covers as if you were going to sleepl

'...on my bed' means that you are lying on top of the bed because, for example, you are reading a book, or just want a rest.

Hope that clarfies it for you::

Best wises,

Peter

 

wow . thanks very much for your explain . I understand now . I did not login this website for a long time . I should login everyday to learn english with you guys .

Submitted by hiswaf on Tue, 26/03/2013 - 15:31

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i scored 155/155 thank you for this useful lessons

Submitted by volkanTurco on Thu, 28/02/2013 - 07:30

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i scored 155 but this does not prove that we can write correctly.For example,i make writing mistakes in english.

Submitted by elis quinn on Sat, 08/12/2012 - 13:44

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Hi.. I'm a new member and glad to join. I want to practice my grammar. I click to the  grammar exercise but i can't fill in the blank. It has an instructions then i click start, but it won't start. Teacher pls help me.

Thank You. 

Hello elis!

 

I'm sorry you're having a problem with this exercise. The grammar task works OK for me, so can you help me to find out what the problem is?

 

  • What computer or smartphone are you using? (Windows, Mac, HTC...)
  • Which web browser are you using? (Firefox, Internet Explorer...?)
  • Have you tried any other web pages or tasks on LearnEnglish?
  • Do you still have the same problem if you use a different computer?

 

Let me know the answers, and we'll try to solve the problem!

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee
The Learn English Team