Modals of deduction

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


As you watch the video, look at the examples of modals of deduction. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, modals of deduction correctly.


Daisy: This is so good. I … Oh, that might be Mum phoning from Bali. I’ll put her on speaker. Hi, Mum!

Ollie: Hi, Mum!

Sophie: Ah, you’re both there, good. Hi, how are you doing?

Daisy: We’re fine. Just having some pizza. And you?

Sophie: Really good. I’m about to eat too. I’ve just been walking round this amazing market and it’s made me hungry. I’m going to order a big bowl of spicy noodles.

Ollie: Don’t make us jealous, Mum! You’re always doing that.

Sophie: Sorry, love. I was thinking about you just now, actually, and I’ve got a little quiz prepared for you.

Daisy: A quiz?

Sophie: Yeah. Can you both see the phone? I’m going to send you some photos of Indonesian food. Tell me what the food is.

Daisy: OK, fire away.

Sophie: Right, picture number 1.

Daisy: Ooh, that looks a bit like pasta, burnt pasta, but it isn’t, is it?

Ollie: Nah, that’s a kind of insect. A kind of worm?

Sophie: Yes, very good. One point to Ollie, but that was an easy one. Next.

Ollie: They’re weird. They might be some kind of small pig.

Daisy: I don’t know. Are they little dogs?

Sophie: Ah, they’re actually a lot smaller than that. They’re bats.

Daisy and Ollie: Bats!

Sophie: Yeah, without wings. I haven’t seen anyone eating them, but someone must do. OK, next.

Ollie: That looks like tomato juice, but it can’t be, that would be too easy.

Daisy: It could be some kind of exotic fruit juice like papaya or mango.

Sophie: Nowhere near. I’ll give you a clue. It isn’t made from fruit or vegetables.

Ollie: So, it must come from an animal.

Daisy: I know, it’s blood!

Sophie: Yes, half a point to Daisy. Another half a point for the animal.

Daisy: A fish? A snake? A crocodile?

Sophie: Yep, a snake. It’s cobra blood, very good for the health, they say.

Ollie: Yeeuch, you’ve put me right off my pizza!

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!



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

Average: 3.9 (8 votes)
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Submitted by sanyalearning on Fri, 12/15/2023 - 16:57

I might cook some special dish. Probably it's some steak with the unique preparation method. I a little bit doubt about my trip to the UK, but I'm definitely sure about it.

Submitted by taylorqw on Tue, 08/01/2023 - 09:42

I might have fried potatoes with meat and make a salad for supper tonight. Yes, I do think so, because it's a very beautiful country, and I may visit the UK one day.

Submitted by rebbit2009 on Tue, 08/02/2022 - 07:43

I might have a pizza for supper today. I think yes, I really want to visit UK, so I may visit this country one day.

Submitted by strawberry123_ on Mon, 06/27/2022 - 10:04

I might have meat with potatoes for supper today. I hope one day I will visit UK. It`s one of my dreams. In general, my dream is to travel a lot in future, and I think one of the places will be UK

Submitted by strawberry123_ on Thu, 08/26/2021 - 10:49

I might have chicken with pasta for dinner tonight. I hope I may visit UK one day. I really would love to do. I read a lot about this country, especially about London, there`re so many interesting and unusual places to visit, so I hope, one day I`ll have an opportunity to do it.

Submitted by Geovana123 on Mon, 08/02/2021 - 17:52

I'll probably have soup for dinner today, and I love soup, it doesn't matter if it's cold or hot, every day is soup day. About the UK, it would be really cool to visit him someday, maybe on an exchange, because plane tickets are very expensive, or maybe when I'm a millionaire, lol.

Submitted by viniciuslampert on Fri, 07/30/2021 - 14:53

Today is friday, so i'm probably going to eat a sandwich, but tomorrow, saturday, we'll gonna eat some pizza. Eating pizza at saturday night it's a tradition in my family. And yes, i would love to visit the UK one day, It's a peaceful and developed country.

Submitted by ruth_mrr on Thu, 07/29/2021 - 04:41

It's cold outside so I'm having a vegetables soup for supper tonight. Yes I think I may travel to the UK at some point, it's a beautiful country and has a really amazing culture so why not? But before that i will need to improve my english and save a lot of money.

Submitted by Mamou1 on Thu, 07/22/2021 - 10:32

Today I might have for supper somme fried chicken, plantin and salad it's not my favorite dish but i don't hate it. Now you are asking, I always wanted to visit UK for just tree weeks mabe or 3 moths and may be one day I coud realize that dream. Buckimgam palace, big ben even seing the queen ( if I had an opportunity) go to liverpool I just want to see all these places an enjoy the moment.
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Submitted by Cfvdv on Thu, 04/01/2021 - 18:07

I might be having pork meat for supper today. We often have our meat with beans, salad and rice. Yes I think I am going to visit the UK, because I have family there, and I would like very much to visit there.

Submitted by Arivelde on Tue, 03/30/2021 - 16:10

I might have some salad and some kind of animal protein for my supper tonight. And I may go to the UK some day, because I have some relatives living there at this moment, we don't know them really well, but it's family, so it should be no problem.

Submitted by milenaxps on Tue, 08/03/2021 - 03:28

Even if today is Monday my dinner could be barbecue, along with vegetables and mayonnaise. Yes, I want to visit the UK one day, it's on my travel list.

In reply to by Arivelde

Submitted by Didik on Wed, 03/24/2021 - 20:43

Tonight I might have beef with some rice and beans. Yes I think someday I might visit the UK becouse my cousins live there and they say it is a very nice and beaultifull country.

Submitted by Natiiiiiiiiiiiii on Fri, 02/26/2021 - 22:00

What might you have for supper tonight? Do you think you may visit the UK one day? I might I am going to have for supper tonight ice scream because is birthday of my uncle, Also, I consider that I may visit the UK in 1 or 2 years. First I have to be independent and save money.
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Submitted by Kostantinus on Thu, 01/28/2021 - 09:38

Today I might be having some cottage cheese and a cup of tea for my supper. I think in the future I may work in the UK.
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Submitted by Andrii on Wed, 12/30/2020 - 15:04

Tonight for supper I might have either pasta, or grilled potatoes. And I think I may visit the UK one day because I travel a lot.

Submitted by Theo on Sun, 10/25/2020 - 20:08

The asian food is really strange. My uncle has traveled to SIngapore. He said that you can eat fried grasshoppers and crickets just right on the street! It's strange.

Submitted by Stasiia_Ukr on Tue, 10/20/2020 - 17:16

so, I can't have the snake blood tonight, it's too yuck!
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Submitted by Languizir on Mon, 09/07/2020 - 10:22

I love this article. And for supper, I would like to eat the cobra blood like these kinds of soldiers, they are fascinating.
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Submitted by Giovannichoi on Fri, 07/10/2020 - 02:19

I wish my lunch or supper is 떡볶이(Tteokbokki), but maybe it will just usual rice. And; hey, Cobra blood? Yuck! Bats? Yuck!! WORMS? YUCKYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe I would never, ever go to Bali. NEVER!!

Submitted by hermione123 on Sun, 04/11/2021 - 11:39

I've visited Bali when I was 5 years old. And it turned out to be an awesome trip. Are you sure you won't visit Bali? It's a beautiful place. With so many amazing beaches and wonderful scenery. And i guess you'll find more delicious Indonesian food. Not just those extreme foods. And many restaurants sell western foods. Because, there are so many tourists. If you go to the mall you'll find Mexican, Indian, korean, Chinese and japanese food. Bali is international destination the food that are sold there comes from different places in the world.

In reply to by Giovannichoi

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Submitted by empty on Sat, 06/15/2019 - 10:04

Cobra blood ? what an interesting food .
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Submitted by Youjiro on Sat, 02/02/2019 - 10:32

I might have doing exercise.Tonight I prepare sports competition for next month.It organized high school.I'll attend some truck race.Additionally I might have cook beef to get protein .I may visit UK one day.I suppose UK's weather is foggy and cloudy all of time.Temperature is cold also chilly.
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