9.2 past modals of deduction

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Question English
Answer English

You could have left it in the café.
Use modal verb + have + past participle
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Use modal verb + have + past participle to make deductions or guesses about past actions or states.

She must have been feeling ill.
Use modal verb + have + been + -ing form
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Use modal verb + have + been + -ing form to make deductions about continuous actions or states.

It can't have been stolen from your bag.
Use modal verb + have + been + past participle
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Use modal verb + have + been + past participle for deductions using the passive.

I must have deleted the email. I can't find it anymore.
must have
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you are almost certain that something is true, based on the evidence
have + past participle (the perfect infinitive) is also used with other modals: should have (been) and would have (been)

The plane could have been delayed by the weather. There's a bad storm at sea.
might/could/may have
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you think it is possible that something is true, based on the evidence
have + past participle (the perfect infinitive) is also used with other modals: should have (been) and would have (been)

It can't have been the waitress. She wasn't in the room when the bag was stolen.
couldn't/can't have
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you are almost certain something is not true or is impossible, based on the evidence
have + past participle (the perfect infinitive) is also used with other modals: should have (been) and would have (been)

To speculate or make a deduction about something that happened in the past,
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use the modals: must/could/might/can't/couldn't + have + past participle
It can't have been the young couple because I was looking at them all the time.

To emphasise that an activity was in progress,
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use modal + have + been + -ing
The woman must have been working with the guy.

in the passive,
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use modal + have + been + past participle
So it must have been stolen when I was taking the photo.

Perhaps Jenna while we were out. Let me check on the answerphone.
must/might/may/could/ can't/ couldn't have
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Jenna might have phoned while we were out.

Knock louder. You know he's a bit deaf. I'm sure he didn't hear you.
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He can't/couldn't have heard you.

I locked the door. I'm certain. Maybe the thieves got in through the windows.
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The thieves might/could /may have got in through the window.

I can't find the final version of the report in my computer. I realised it was impossible that I saved the document.
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I realised I couldn't have saved the document.

Ooh, that was a bad knock to your head. I'm certain it hurt a lot.
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It must have hurt a lot.

I don't know why Wanda was late for the meeting. Maybe her plane was delayed.
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Her plane might/could/may have been delayed.

I'm sure I've made a mistake. The date looks wrong.
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I must have made a mistake.

Paola should have won the race. It's impossible that she was trying hard enough.
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She can't/couldn't have been trying hard enough.

Look at her necklace. Are those real diamonds?
Yes. It (?) a fortune! (cost)
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Yes. It must have cost a fortune!

I tried phoning Mike four times but he didn't answer.
He (?) his phone or maybe he left it at home. (switch off)
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He might/could/may have switched off his phone or maybe he left it at home.

Why was Danielle in the office at midnight?
She (?) late. She had a big meeting the next day. (work)
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She must have been working late. She had a big meeting the next day.

I'm sure Len told me you were a doctor.
He (?) of my sister, Rachel, or maybe he confused me with someone else. (think)
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He might/could/may have been thinking of my sister, Rachel, or maybe he confused me with someone else.

I've lost my boarding card. It's not in my bag!
You (?) properly. I saw you put it there just now. (look)
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You can't/couldn't have looked properly. I saw you put it there just now.

Do you think Yves knows he didn't get the promotion?
I suppose he (?) by the boss but I doubt it. (tell)
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I suppose he might/could/may have been told by the boss but I doubt it.


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