Modal Verbs of Possibility and Certainty - ESL Activities, Games and Worksheets

The Day Trip

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility Game - Speaking Activity - Elementary - 20 minutes

In this modal verbs of possibility activity, students play a card game where they use 'may' and 'might' to make sentences about things they are going to take on a day trip. The students are divided into groups of three. Each group is given a set of picture cards, which they shuffle and place face down in a pile on the desk. The students are told to imagine that they are going on a day trip and that they are going to say what they are taking with them and why. Students then take it in turns to pick up a picture card and make a sentence about the object on the card, e.g. 'I'm going to take a camera, because I might want to take some photos'. If a student manages to make a suitable sentence, the student keeps the card. If a student can't think of anything to say or makes a grammar mistake, the card is put back at the bottom of the pile. The game continues until there are no more cards left. The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins.
 

The Realms of Possibility

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility Activity - Reading, Listening and Speaking - Elementary - 25 minutes

In this entertaining group activity, students practice asking and answering questions about the future using 'will' and 'won't' for predictions and the modal verbs of possibility 'may' and 'might'. The class is divided into groups of four and each student is given an interview card. The students then go around their group asking each other the questions on their card and recording their group members' answers by writing their names in the appropriate column. Students also ask follow-up questions to gain more information and note down the answers on the back of the card. When the students have finished, they join together with people who have the same cards and compare answers. Finally, the groups give feedback about the information they found out.
 

What's that noise?

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility and Certainty Activity - Listening and Speaking - Elementary - 20 minutes

Here is an enjoyable guessing game to help students learn how to use the modal verbs 'could', 'may' and 'might' for possibility and 'must' for certainty. Some objects that make a recognizable sound are placed behind a screen at the front of the class. One student is invited to operate the various objects behind the screen and the class is divided into two teams. The student behind the screen then operates one of the objects. The teams take it in turns to guess what they think the object could be. Each time a team makes a guess, they use a modal verb of possibility by saying 'It could/may/might be a/an...' If a team is certain what the object is, the team uses a modal verb of certainty by saying 'It must be a/an...' Teams are allowed one guess per turn. If a team guesses correctly using a modal verb of possibility, they score one point. If a team guesses correctly using a modal verb of certainty, they score two points. If a team makes an incorrect guess with a modal verb of certainty, they lose two points. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
 

Don't leave home without it

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 25 minutes

Here is a fun card game to help students practice the modal verbs of possibility 'may' and 'might' and the demonstrative pronouns 'this' and 'these'. In the activity, students play a guessing game where they describe objects by saying what they may or might do with them. The students are divided into groups of four. Each group is given a set of picture cards, which they shuffle and place face down in a pile on the desk. The cards show pictures of everyday objects that people often carry with them. Students take it in turns to pick up a card and describe the object on the card, e.g. 'I always carry this because I might need to buy something'. The first student to guess the object (a wallet) keeps the card. The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins.
 

Guess the Place or Situation

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility Activity - Writing, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate - 30 minutes

In this engaging modal verbs of possibility activity, students play a guessing game where they describe places and situations. The students are divided into pairs and each pair is given a card. Students describe the place or situation on their card by writing five sentences with the modal verbs of possibility: may, might, and could. When everyone has finished writing, pairs take it in turns to read their sentences to the class. The class then tries to guess the place or situation described by each pair.
 

It's Possible

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility and Certainty Activity - Reading, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate - 40 minutes

This multi-purpose worksheet activity can be used to help teach students modal verbs of possibility, adverbs of probability, predicting and expressing certainty. The students are divided into pairs and each student is given a copy of the worksheet. Students begin by preparing questions from the prompts on the worksheet, e.g. 'Do you think you will do some exercise today?' Students then take it in turns to ask and answer the questions and complete the chart with their partner's answers. When students respond to a question, they use one of the modal verbs of possibility or adverbs of probability from the worksheet in their answer. When the pairs have finished, they join with two other pairs to make a group of six. Working as a group, the students write about the information they found out, e.g. 'In our group, four people think they might do some exercise today, but two people think they definitely won't', etc. Afterwards, students take it in turns to present their group's results to the class and feedback is given.
 

Jon's Story

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate - 25 minutes

In this rewarding modal verbs of possibility activity, students read a short story and write sentences about what they think the people in the story might do or say next. Each student is given a copy of the worksheet. The students read the short story on the worksheet together as a class. The students then write two sentences about what they think the people in the story might do or say next using the modal verbs of possibility: could, may and might. When the students have finished writing, they are divided into groups of four. The students then read their sentences to each other and discuss the various possibilities. Afterwards, the students give feedback to the class and the class discusses the dilemma in the story.
 

In the next 30 years...

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate - 40 minutes

In this compelling worksheet activity, students ask and answer questions about what changes they think will take place in the next 30 years. This activity covers making predictions, adverbs of probability and modal verbs of possibility. The class is divided into four groups and each student is given a corresponding worksheet. In their groups, students prepare questions based on the topic and prompts on their worksheet. Students also create three more questions of their own at the end. Afterwards, students make a group of four with the people from the other groups (Student A, B, C and D). Students then take it in turns to ask and answer the questions and complete the chart with their classmates' answers. When students respond to a question, they use one of the adverbs of probability on the worksheet in their answer and give a reason for their opinion. When the students have finished, they return to their original groups to collate their answers for the whole class. Each student then uses adverbs of probability and modal verbs of possibility to summarize their group's results, e.g. 'Six students think that robots might do the housework in the next 30 years, but five students think that they probably won't'. Afterwards, students take it in turns to present their group's results to the class and feedback is given.
 

Life in the Year 2050

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility and Certainty Activity - Reading, Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate - 40 minutes

In this intriguing worksheet activity, students make predictions and express possibility and degrees of certainty for statements about life in the year 2050. Each student is given a copy of the worksheet. Working alone, students complete each statement on the worksheet with an expression of possibility or certainty that best expresses their opinion, e.g. 'In the year 2050, people might live on the moon'. When the students have finished, they are divided into groups of four. The students then take it in turns to read each statement to the other group members. After all four students have read a statement, the students discuss any differences of opinion and come to a consensus for the statement. When they have reached an agreement, each student writes yes or no in the second column, depending on whether the group agreed with their original statement or not. Afterwards, each group shares their ideas with the class, giving reasons for their opinions. Finally, the students see if they can reach a class consensus for each statement.
 

Modal Mania

ESL Modal Verbs of Possibility Game - Listening, Speaking and Matching Activity - Pre-intermediate - 30 minutes

In this entertaining modal verbs of possibility activity, students play a card game where they explain how something is possible. The students are divided into groups of four. Each group is given a set of possibility cards and a set of picture cards. The picture cards are dealt out evenly and the possibility cards are placed face down in a pile on the desk. Players take it in turns to pick up a possibility card and read the item on the card to the other students, e.g. 'Something that could be dangerous'. The player who picked up the card then chooses one of their picture cards (e.g. money) and explains how it is possible for the two cards to correspond with each other. Players can be as imaginative or amusing as they like in order to convince the other students how the cards match. If the other students accept the explanation, the player discards their picture and places the possibility card at the bottom of the pile. If the other students find reason to disagree, the player keeps the picture card. The first player to get rid of all their picture cards wins the game. Students can play several rounds to see what explanations they can come up with.
 
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