# modals & degree of certainty

• 27-Feb-2006, 16:17
hela
modals & degree of certainty
Dear teachers,
Would you please tell me how you would classify these modals, please? From the less certain to the most certain:
You mightbe right = very uncertain
may
could
can
You should be right / have been right. l
ought to
would
will
You mustbe right = almost certain
You are right = certain

OR

You might be right = very uncertain
could
may (50% ?)
can
You should be right / have been right.
ought to
would
must(90% ?)
can’t (90% ?)
will (99% ?) be right =almost certain

Hela
• 27-Feb-2006, 22:45
MrPedantic
Re: modals & degree of certainty
Hello Hela

This is how I would interpret them. I'm not sure we can put percentages on modal usage: it seems to vary from person to person and region to region.

Scenario 1: Hela is in the kitchen with her best friend, Zéphirine. They are waiting for Harry.

If I were Zéphirine, and you responded to the knock with any of these, I would assume that you thought it "moderately likely" that the person at the door was Harry:

"That might be Harry now."
"That could be Harry now."
"That may be Harry now."

If you responded with any of these, I would assume that you thought it "very likely" that the person was Harry:

"That would be Harry now."
"That will be Harry now."
"That must be Harry now."

These I wouldn't expect to hear:

"That should be Harry."
"That can be Harry."
"That ought to be Harry."

Scenario 2: Hela is in the kitchen with her best friend, Zéphirine. They are waiting for Harry. There's a loud knock at the door. "I think that's Harry," says Zéphirine. Hela replies:

"You might be right."
"You could be right."
"You may be right."

(In any of the above three cases, Hela isn't entirely certain that it's Harry.)

"You must be right."

(In this case, Hela has good reason to believe that you're right. It can also mean that Hela wants you to be right.)

"You would be right."
"You will be right."
"You should be right."
"You ought to be right."
"You can be right."

(I wouldn't expect to hear any of the above five cases.)

See you,
MrP
• 01-Mar-2006, 07:33
hela
Re: modals & degree of certainty
Thank you MrP :-)

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