Adverbials of probability

Learn how to use adverbials such as maybe, obviously and perhaps to show how certain you are about something, and do the exercises to practise using them.

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 Claire Rabbit on Tue, 19/07/2022 - 08:40

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Hi, I just want to know
1. why is "possibly" after the main verb in this sentence:
"she's got possibly a lot of work." ?
2. In negative, Why is "probably" before modals verbs such as
"My team probably won't win this match." ?
I'm really confusing. Thank you so much!

Hi BetterAdam,

In 1, "possibly" is positioned just before "a lot", so it seems that the speaker/writer wants to emphasise the quantity of work ("a lot") more than usual.

In 2, I'm not sure but the different word order from the affirmative sentence may signal to listeners that a negative verb is coming next. That's useful because if the listener misses or doesn't hear the negative verb, there will be a serious misunderstanding of the speaker's meaning.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Tue, 14/07/2020 - 22:31

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This tip is helpful.

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.
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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