Speculating about past events

'It must have been a UFO.'
Imagine that you go to your friend's house, but when you knock on her door there is no answer. You then notice that her car is not there, so the conclusion you come to is that she must have gone out. Let's take a look at that last part again: she must have gone out (must + have + past participle) This form is used when we are speculating about past events i.e. we don't know for sure what happened, but have an idea. In the above sentence must is a modal auxiliary verb which shows we are pretty sure about what happened. If we are not so sure, we use 'She could have gone out' or 'She might have gone out'. Let's look at some other examples: • • • • • 'Paul looks tired, he must have been out late last night.' 'I could have won the race if I had trained harder.' 'He might have gotten really sick if he hadn't started taking care of his health.' 'She may have taken the day off, because I haven't seen her today. 'I saw a strange light in the sky last night. It could have been a UFO!'

Modal Verbs: Speculating about past events

100 % certain
We often speculate, or make “best guesses”, about past situations based on facts that we have. The modal that we choose depends on how certain we are about our speculation. Affirmative Must have Had to have May have Might have Could have Negative Can’t have Couldn’t have Must not have May not have Might not have

0% certain

When you are almost 100 percent certain that something was possible, use must have or had to have.

The statues are very big. Speculation · They must have been hard to move. The islanders were able to carve the stone. Speculation · The stone may have been quite soft.

When you are less certain, use may have, might have, or could have.

When you are almost 100 percent certain that something was impossible, use can’t have or couldn’t have. When you are slightly less certain, use must not. Use may not have or might not have when you are less certain.

· The islanders couldn’t have moved the stone! It was too heavy. · They must not have moved it without help. · The islanders might not have moved the statues over land. They could have used boats.

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