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Choosing from the modal range

When you are choosing from the range of modal possibilities, you are choosing to make statements along the spectrum from absolute positive to absolute negative. In between these absolutes, there is a range of possible terms you can use for expressing degrees of certainty and doubt, usuality, obligation and necessity.

You may find it useful to think about modality in terms of high, medium and low. This may help you choose effectively from the range of modal possibilities.

The following table provides a rough guide to high, medium and low modality choices.

Modality expressing High Medium Low
Usuality (how frequently something happens or is the case)
  • always, never, constantly, continually, consistently, permanently
  • in all cases, in many/the majority of cases
  • frequently, often, intermittently, occasionally
  • in some cases
  • rarely, seldom
  • in few/the minority of cases,
Probability or certainty (that something is the case)
  • certainly, surely, definitely
  • absolute, total, complete

  • probably, likely
  • quite, rather, fairly
  • may be, may demonstrate, may result in
  • tend to suggest
  • possibly
  • possibility
  • could, might
  • appear, seem, would appear to suggest
Obligation (the need for things to be a certain way)
  • must, require
  • necessitate,
    necessity, requirement
  • should, ought to, need to
  • may, might
Ability (of someone or something to do something)
  • is capable of, is able to
  • can
  • could
Inclination (of a person to do something)
  • want
  • wish
  • would like to
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