This lesson will help you understand:
- the meaning of ‘assume’ and ‘assumption’
- the meaning of ‘deduce’ and ‘deduction’
- how to make assumptions and deductions in English
- the grammar of modals of deduction/assumption
- easy ways to remember the grammar and meaning
- how these modals are used and tested in IELTS
28-Day Planner: Day 19 [Academic Language in the Listening Test]
Modals of deduction: meaning
What do people ASSUME about you?
If you have a nice car, do people assume you’re very rich?
If you ride a bicycle to work, do people assume that you can’t afford a car?
When you assume something, you make a GUESS based on SOME evidence.
But it is still a GUESS, and your guess may be wrong.
One simple way to make a guess is to say ‘Maybe’.
‘She has a nice car. Maybe she’s very rich’.
A more advanced way to guess is to use a MODAL verb (must, may, could, might, can’t)
‘She MUST have a lot of money’ (about the Present)’.
‘She COULD have won the lottery’ (about the Past)’.
When we assume things, we look at the evidence and ‘deduce‘ (guess) information from that evidence.
We use a Modal of Deduction – must, may, could, might, can’t – to express how sure we are.
MODALS in IELTS
Very often in IELTS Reading and Listening Tests, there are specific questions relating to the language of assumption/deduction.
This is because many of the texts are related to Academic Research. When you do research, you don’t always have all the evidence that you need to prove your theory.
So you have to make assumptions and guesses. And you have to tell your audience that you are NOT 100% sure. You are just guessing, based on some evidence.
Examples from the IELTS Listening Test
Listen to this extract from Part 4 of the Listening Test.
Now look at the tapescript:
‘The early farmers kept various animals, including cattle and sheep. There’s also evidence of pigs, but it is possible that these could have been descended from the native wild species.’
‘Now we know from modern farming that if the level of breeding stock falls below about 300 females, the future of the species locally is at risk.”
“So we must assume that from the beginnings of Neolithic farming the number of breeding sheep would have considerably exceeded 300, and the national cattle herd must have been of a similar size’.
See an example from the Reading Test here (from 9:20)
Modal verbs can be divided into 2 types:
Type 1: ‘dictionary meaning’
This is the basic meaning, which you usually learn first e.g.
- must = a strong obligation
- could = possibility
- will/would = probablility
- should = advice, recommendation
- can/can’t = ability, permission
Type 2: guessing
The meaning allows you to express you certain/uncertain you are about something:
- She MUST be rich = a strong guess about NOW
- She MUST HAVE WON the lottery = a strong guess about the PAST
I have a full course about Modals in the Members Academy Perfect Grammar Bootcamp.
How can you remember modals of deduction?
Get more listening practice here.
- How to listen for signals and signposts (especially in Section 3).
- Why you need to learn Modals of Deduction for the Listening Test.
- How to keep your place in Listening Part 4.
- How to do Multiple Choice Questions in Listening Part 4.
- How to identify the distractors in Listening Part 3.
- How to deal with a difficult Listening Part 4.
- How to do a Gapfill Summary in Listening Part 4.
- How to choose from a list in Listening Part 2.
- How to complete a table in Listening Part 2.
- How to label a map in Listening Part 2.
- How to recognise distractors in Listening Part 4.
- Multiple Choice and Tables in Part 4.
- Listening to an expert interview (and an Australian accent) in Part 3.
- How to review IELTS vocab topics through Listening Part 4.