Grammar Exercise #14

Modal verbs: possibility

We use must, may, might, could, couldn't and can't when there is some evidence, information or belief that something is probably or possibly true (or not true). The modal verb we choose depends on the strength of the evidence we have to support our ideas.

  • very likely: must
  • possible: might, may, could, may not, might not
  • very unlikely: can't, couldn't

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Write about the following topic:

What can be done to encourage young people to become responsible members of society?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

Here is a model answer. Complete it with modal verbs from the box. In some cases more than one modal verb is possible, your choice will depend on how emphatic you wish to be.


In many societies these days, people are concerned about deteriorating standards of behaviour among young people. Petty crime, misuse of drugs and alcohol and apparent lack of respect for others all seem to be on the rise. Some people maintain that the best way to address this problem is to reinstate firm discipline within homes and schools. I suggest that although this be one solution, we approach the task of encouraging responsible behaviour among young people in a variety of ways.

One measure that both parents and teachers take is to involve young people in making decisions about what is acceptable behaviour. In schools for example, teachers draw up a contract with the children in their class. It need to be revised periodically as the children mature and are able to handle more freedom responsibly. Doing this discourage children from using misbehaviour as a means of expressing their independence.

Secondly, young people be taught leadership skills by taking part in organisations such as the Scouts. Young people who have experienced what it is like to be a leader probably have a better understanding of the difficulties involved. This encourage them to cooperate more easily with authority figures.

In summary, there are several ways in which young people can be encouraged to behave responsibly. They can be involved in defining what constitutes good behaviour, and they can be taught leadership skills. Parents and teachers should be encouraged to try these methods before resorting to more punitive measures. If they are successful, they may very well discover a maturity in their children that they never anticipated.


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