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Possibility with verbs

 

Techniques > Use of language > Parts of speech > Using verbs > Possibility with verbs

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Method

Use modal verbs (e.g. can, could, might, may) to show that something is possible. This is useful in persuasion as it can move people from not considering possibilities to realizing that something really can be done and is well worth the effort.

You can also talk about impossibility, perhaps showing that a desired course of action is not as bad as it seems.

Example

How can we move this forward?

What if you could do it?

They may arrive tomorrow. What would happen then?

What would not happen if you stayed in the same job?

Discussion

Modal verbs of possibility provide subtle ways of motivation, as they are not the subject or object, but they do quietly open doors to get people to think about what is actually feasible.

When people take absolute positions and close off avenues of possibility, they are not open to considering what you want them do. The first step in persuasion may be simply to move them from saying 'impossible' to 'it could happen'. From there, you can increase the probability of action until they reach imperative, where it must happen.

See also

Imperative with verbs

 

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