Tag Archive | Probability

Degrees of Certainty – Probability, Possibility

Continuing on from last week’s part 1 post, we’ll continue with probability and possibility.


The chance that something will happen. To convey that something is probable in a word or short phrase:

Tu assisteras au concert ? – Sans doute.|You’ll go to the concert? _ Most likely./Probably.

C’est Christine qui a téléphoné ? – Probablement.|Was it Christine who called? – Probably.

Christophe fait du théâtre maintenant ? – Paraît-il.|Christophe is doing some acting now? – So it seems.

Vous allez poser le tapis vous-même ? – En principe.|Are you going to lay the carpet yourself? – That’s the idea.

The combination of the verb pouvoir with the verb bien provides the basis for a number of expressions of probability:

Je peux bien prendre le train.|I may well take the train.

Ils pourraient bien téléphoner ce soir.|They’re likely to call this evening.

Other ways to form probability expressions:

Il est très/fort probable qu‘elle jouera le rôle de la reine.|It’s very/highly likely that she’ll play the role of the queen.

Il y a de fortes chances que j’obtiendrai une bourse.|There’s a very good chance that I’ll get/obtain a grant.

Ils sont censés arriver par le train de six heures.|They’re meant to arrive on the six o’clock train.

Ils devraient vous rembourser tout de suite.|They should reimburse you immediately.


Most constructions expressing “the possibility that…” or “doubt that…” are followed by the subjunctive.

Brief responses to indicate that something is possible include:

Il est malade ? C’est possible.|Is he sick? – Possibly./Maybe.

Tu as besoin de la voiture ? – Ça se peut.|Will you need the car? – Possibly./I might.

Tu pourrais le remplacer ? – Oui, éventuellement.|Could you replace him? – Possibly.

More elaborate expressions often use the verb pouvoir:

Ils ont pu perdre leur chemin.|They may have lost their way.

Il se peut que la voiture soit tombée en panne.|It’s possible the car’s broken down.

A la limite, on pourrait croire qu‘il l’a fait exprès.|You might almost think he did it deliberately.

Possibility can also be expressed by idiomatic phrases:

Il est possible que je sois en mesure de vous aider.|It may be that I’m in a position to help you.

Nous vous soutiendrons dans la mesure du possible.|We shall support you as far as we can.

Ce que vous proposez, c’est très faisable.|What you’re suggesting is quite possible/do-able.

Tu crois que c’est un projet réalisable ?|Do you think the plan could work/is feasible?

Come back next week for the final installment of this three part topic. Have a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…