Adverbs of Probability

Adverbs of probability indicate how certain we are about an action. In this lesson, we will learn about how and when to use them.

Intermediate
"Adverbs of Probability" in the English Grammar

What Are Adverbs of Probability?

Adverbs of probability (sometimes called adverbs of certainty) modify a verb to tell us how certain we are about a situation or an action.

adverbs of certainty

Most Common Adverbs of Probability

The most common adverbs of probability are:

  • definitely
  • certainly
  • maybe
  • possibly
  • perhaps
  • probably
  • likely
  • very likely
  • not likely

Adverbs of Probability: Structure

Many (but not all) adverbs of probability end with -ly.

It will probably take place at midnight.

Maybe I'm right, but maybe not.

But of course, there are some exceptions. Some are flat adverbs (also called bare adverbs or simple adverbs) and some are formed by a preposition + a noun phrase:

  • doubtless
  • for sure
  • for certain

Doubtless there would be lots of rumors.

Adverbs of Probability: Placement

We usually place adverbs of probability before the main verb.

They did everything they possibly could to save his life.

You definitely need a break.

using an adverb of probability in a sentence

If the verb of the sentence is 'to be,' adverbs of probability come after the verb 'be.'

This is certainly not mine.

Diana is probably right.

Usually, we place 'perhaps' and 'maybe' at the beginning of the clause.

Maybe he'll come tomorrow.

Perhaps it will snow tomorrow.

Tip!

We can place 'perhaps' at the end of the sentence, but only in spoken English.

We'll watch a movie, perhaps.

Adverbs of Probability: Uses

Here, you can see the adverbs of probability arranged from less likely to most likely:

maybe least likely
perhaps
possibly
probably
likely
obviously
definitely
certainly most likely

Review

Adverbs of probability are used to express how certain we are about an event. They are used in different positions in the clause but mainly they are placed:

  • before the main verb
  • after the verb 'be'
  • sometimes at the beginning of the clause

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