Sophie is in Bali this week and she discovers some unusual Indonesian food. 

We use the modal verbs might, may and could + an infinitive form without to when we think it is possible that something is true. We use must when we are sure it is true and can’t when we are sure it isn’t true.

So we can use might, may and could for making guesses?

Yes. They’re all used when we are not sure about something, but we think that it is possible that it is true.

They might be some kind of small pig.

But could I also say, 'They could be a kind of pig' or 'They may be a kind of pig'?

Yes, you could. The meanings are really similar. You can choose whether to use may, might or could.

Ah, OK. So if I'm not sure about something I can use may, might or could and the meaning is almost the same. That's easy to remember. 

Yes, that's right. But there's something else which affects the meaning, and that's how you say it; the 'intonation'. If you stress maymight or could it sounds less probable.

It could be mango juice.   (less likely)
It could be mango juice.   (more likely)

OK, and if I’m sure about something, what modals do I use?

We use must if we think something is true and can’t if we think something isn’t true.

So, it must come from an animal.
That looks like tomato juice, but it can’t be, that would be too easy.

Do the verb forms change in the third person?

No, they don’t change. They are the same in the first, second and third person.

Great! I think I like these modals!

You're right. Once you know the rules, they're pretty easy. Don't forget they are always followed by the infinitive form without to. We also use may/might + be + -ing for something happening right now or a possible future arrangement.

That might be Mum phoning from Bali.
She might be going to Australia
.

You also used 'it could be a kind of pig' for describing something in the present.

Yes, but that was with the verb to be, a stative verb. We use the –ing form with active or dynamic verbs.

I see. Is there anything else to be careful about?

Yes, if you are talking about possibility in the past you need the modal + have + past participle.

She might have taken those photos in China.
I may have thrown it away by mistake.

Hmm. I think I may need to practise these verbs a bit.

Yes, you might be right!

 

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Discussion

What might you have for supper tonight? Do you think you may visit the UK one day? 

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JoEditor 5 April, 2015 - 08:11

Hi solomene,
Thanks for your message. Sorry that you are having problems with the videos. Is it only the Grammar snack videos that do this or all the videos on the site? I have just checked this video and it worked fine. Can you tell me please which browser you are using and also if this is happening with ALL the videos on the site or just these ones. 
Thanks a lot. Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

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solomene 7 April, 2015 - 06:01

Hi JoEditor,
Thanks for your reply.I use Google chrome.The issue was just with these grammar snack videos but as i have checked them, these are also working well now.Perhaps this was a temporary issue.Again thanks a lot for your response

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JoEditor 7 April, 2015 - 10:00

Hi solomene,
Thanks for letting me know. I'm happy to hear the videos are working fine for you now. 
Best wishes Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

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