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Levels of Possibilities in English: The Simplest Way to Learn Them

Level of Possibilities in English: The Simplest Way to Learn Them.

Generally, all English learners know exactly what might, will and other modal verbs are, however, some of them always use the same words all the time to show the possibility of an action happening in the future. We always use the expressions “will” to express a plan or maybe mentioning a bucket list. For instance, we say, “I will go to the mall tomorrow,” “I will go to Japan next month.” The use of will is very common, especially amongst ESL learners. Clearly, only very few know about the level of possibilities in English grammar. And I bet you are a stranger to this one too!

When talking about future action, we normally use several words to show the possibility of it happening on a specific date. Commonly, we use might, will, or maybe the patterns “be verb + be + going to” and “be verb + verb-ing form.” Although these grammar structures tell us that an action will happen, we don’t exactly know how certain it is to happen in the future. All we know is that it will happen in the future, but we don’t know how much chance of certainty there is.

I know you are not well aware of this grammar rule but let me tell you this: You MUST learn this. As would-be English speakers, you can’s just overuse ‘will’ to show a future action. Instead, you also need to know other grammar rules and learn about how to use them correctly.

In this article, we’ll be learning the different LEVEL of POSSIBILITIES in English.

Let us consider the following sentences first.

A. I might marry Angelina Jolie in 2025.

B. I will marry Angelina Jolie in 2025.

C. I am going to marry Angelina Jolie in 2025.

D. I am marrying Angelina Jolie in 2025.

By looking at our sample sentences above, what did you notice? Did you find any commonalities? Did you find any differences?

Well, one similarity we have there is we can see the time marker “in 2025” in every sentence. In English grammar, we call this one the “definite future time marker.” The definite future time marker tells us that the action will surely happen in the exact/definite time in the future.

On the other hand, the difference we have here is that each sentence uses different modal verbs/ grammatical patterns to express future action. Right? Let us highlight the modal verbs and grammatical patterns we used in each of the sentences.

1. Might + (base form of the verb)

2. Will + (base form of the verb)

3. be verb + going to + (base form of the verb)

4. be verb + verb (-ing form)

P.S. The verb we used in the sentence is the word “marry” which is in its base form. Also, please note that the modal verbs might and will must not be followed with a past form or -s form of the verb.

As you can now see, all these grammatical patterns tell us that the action will happen in the future, which is in 2025. But do they tell you how certain and possible the action will happen? NO.

So, this time, let’s talk about the levels of possibilities in English by using and comparing these grammatical patterns.

We will only know the appropriate use of these patterns by simply understanding what happens in each sentence.

A. I might marry Angelina Jolie in 2025.

Grammatical structure: Might + (base form of the verb)

When we try to comprehend the sentence, we have this idea that tells us the action is least possible to happen. Why? Simply because we might express the least possibility for an action to happen.

If you say, “I might marry Angelina Jolie in 2025,” this could mean you are only imagining about you marrying Angelina Jolie. You don’t know each other yet and you want to marry her because she is the woman of your dreams.

Grammatically, we use might when we are not sure about something in the future. This includes imagining or dreaming about something. Actions are least to happen because you have not worked on them yet. They’re still just plans or mere wishes.

Consequently, when you use this structure, there’s only a 25% chance of that action to happen at a definite time in the future.

B. I will marry Angelina Jolie in 2025.

Grammatical structure: Will + (base form of the verb)

The next level of possibility in English grammar is by using the structure “will + the base form of the verb.”

In our sample sentence, we have already used “will” instead of “might.” This time, we can already think that the chance for the action to happen has slightly increased. This is because an action has already been made.

If you say, “I will marry Angelina Jolie in 2025,” this could mean that you and Angelina have known each other already. You might have DM’d her on social media or maybe asked her to go on a date with you. Because of the action made, you became more confident about marrying her because you are already in the dating stage/in a relationship.

On the other hand, we normally think that when we use will, the possibility of the action to happen is so high that we use it often. However, it’s not like that in English grammar.

Using the structure “will + base verb” when talking about a future action guarantees you only a 50% possibility.

So next time, be careful and don’t overuse WILL in your sentences.

C. I am going to marry Angelina Jolie in 2025.

Grammatical structure: be verb + going to + (base form of the verb)

The next grammatical pattern we used to express future action is this: be verb + going to + (base form of the verb). Most English native speakers would use this structure, but ESL students usually don’t. This is because this sounds more difficult than using might or will in the sentence.

However, learning when and how to use this structure correctly would be really helpful to all English learners. This is because this structure expresses more certainty or possibility for the action to happen than using might and will.

In our sample sentence, we stated, “I am going to marry Angelina Jolie in 2025.” Now, if you are to analyze the sentence, you would guess that the possibility of the action to happen is already clear. In English grammar, this structure indicates a higher possibility of the action to happen than might and will.

By taking into consideration the sample sentence we have above, we can conclude that “you” have already proposed to Angelina Jolie, and she already told you her sweetest “YES.” Besides, you know that you will soon tie the knot because she is already your fiance. The wedding will be in 2025 however, everything is not fixed yet. You still don’t have the venue and the program, and you don’t know who the visitors are yet. All you know is that a wedding is soon to happen in 2025 and you are still planning for everything.

This means that the possibility of the action to happen is higher but it’s still at 75% only.

D. I am marrying Angelina Jolie in 2025.

Grammatical structure: be verb + verb (-ing form)

And the last grammatical structure we need to know about the levels of possibilities in English is: “be verb + verb (-ing form).”

This structure looks like the present progressive form, but when paired with a definite future time marker, the structure can also express another meaning. In English grammar, we use this structure to show that an action is 100% sure to happen in the future. That means to say that the entire planning for the action is already complete. And you are waiting only waiting for the definite time in the future to come.

For example, when you say, “I am marrying Angelina Jolie in 2025,” you would mean that everything’s set already. Angelina Jolie is already your fiance and you have completely planned everything for your upcoming wedding. Additionally, you already have the final venue, invitations we’re given to your visitors, you have the program already, etc.

Possibilities in English: The Conclusion

In English grammar, we use specific grammatical patterns or structures to express the levels of possibilities. We use the levels of possibilities to express that an action will happen at a definite time in the future. However, we need to remember that we MUST only pair these structures with a definite future time marker.

The different structures that express different levels of possibilities in English are:

1. Might + (base form of the verb) = 25% chance of happening

2. Will + (base form of the verb) = 50% chance of happening

3. be verb + going to + (base form of the verb) = 75% chance of happening

4. be verb + verb (-ing form) = 100% chance of happening

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