Do you need to explain that there’s about half the chance of something happening?

Use the auxiliary could or the adverbs perhaps, possibly, and maybe.

  • He could arrive in the next few minutes.
  • Maybe she’ll lend you the money.


The story behind this tip

It was 1991. I was helping the financial manager of a German company with a presentation to his group director in Dusseldorf. It was an important meeting and the first time he would travel to the group headquarter. As part of his speech, he was asked to preview whether the peseta would rise or fall against the Deutsche mark (these currencies no longer exist, as the euro has replaced them).


He had no idea of what would happen so he asked me how he could express a fifty per cent possibility. He suggested “should” but that word is used when probabilities are large, so we settled for “could” which defines about half the chance of something happening. Therefore, he said:


“The peseta could rise or fall against the mark though we don’t have enough information now to say what could happen.”


I guess the meeting went well because the last time I spoke to him he was still working at the same company!


Have a look at Andrew’s book on how to improve your business English: