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5. Possibility and certainty: may, might, could and must, etc.

FORM 9

1 May, might and could

Rachel: Whose bag is that?
Daniel: I don't know. It may belong to Maria's friend.
Vicky: It might be a bomb. It could explode at any moment.

We use may or might to say that something is possible or that it is quite likely.
We can use them for the present or the fu ture.
It may/might be a bomb. (= Perhaps it is a bomb.)
I may/might go to the disco tomorrow. (= Perhaps I will go to the disco.)

We can use could to say that something is possible.
The story could be true, I suppose. (= Possibly it is true.)
You could win a million pounds! (= Possibly you will win a million pounds.)
Sometimes could means only a small possibility. It is possible (but not likely) that you will win a million pounds.

In some situations we can use may, might or could.
It may/ might /could rain later.

After may, might or could we can use a continuous form (be + an -ing form).
That man may/might be watching us. (= Perhaps he is watching us.)
Sarah may/might be working late tonight. (= Perhaps she will be working late.)
I'm not sure where Matthew is. He could be playing squash. (= Possibly he is playing squash.)

2 May, might and could in the negative

The negative forms are may not, might not/mightn't, and could not/couldn't.

3 Must and can't

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