must and can’t

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Study this example:

We use must to say that we believe something is certain:

  • You’ve been travelling all day. You must be tired. (travelling is tiring and you’ve been travelling all day, so you must be tired)
  • ‘Joe is a hard worker.’ ‘Joe? You must be joking. He doesn’t do anything.’
  • Louise must get very bored in her job. She does the same thing every day.

We use can’t to say that we believe something is not possible:

  • You’ve just had lunch. You can’t be hungry already. (we don’t expect people to be hungry immediately aft er a meal)
  • They haven’t lived here for very long. They can’t know many people.

The structure is:

Study this example:

Martin and Lucy expected their friends to
be at home.

They rang the doorbell twice, but
nobody has answered. Lucy says:

They must have gone out.
(= there is no other possibility)

For the past we use must have … and can’t have … :

  • I lost one of my gloves. I must have dropped it somewhere. (that’s the only explanation I can think of)
  • ‘We used to live very near the motorway.’ ‘Did you? It must have been noisy.’
  • Sarah hasn’t contacted me. She can’t have got my message.
  • Max walked into a wall. He can’t have been looking where he was going.

The structure is:

You can use couldn’t have instead of can’t have:

  • Sarah couldn’t have got my message.
  • Max couldn’t have been looking where he was going.

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