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It is important to know how to identify what a reference word refers to. Some questions in the exam are likely to test this ability.

If the meaning of ‘likely’ in this passage is ‘possible’, then what the difference between them?

Thanks!

  • "Likely" is an adjective here functioning as a predicative complement with the infinitival clause "to test this ability" as its complement. It expresses medium epistemic modality, and hence is sometimes called a lexical modal. "Possibly" is also a lexical modal, but it can't here replace "likely". Note, though, that you could say "Some questions in the exam may possibly test this ability". – BillJ Feb 18 '18 at 12:25
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You can't replace the adjective 'likely' with 'possible' in your sentence:

'It is important to know how to identify what a reference word refers to. Some questions in the exam are likely to test this ability'.

You would have to say '...some questions in the exam may test this ability.' This is because 'possible' is not a verb.

That said,

'Likely' has a greater chance of occurring than 'possible' (or 'may').

In fact 'likely' means it has about 50% chance of happening, whereas 'possible' or 'may' gives no indication of probability at all.

Examples:

  • it is likely to rain tomorrow (50% probability)
  • it is possible it will rain tomorrow (rain sometimes happens...)
  • It may rain tomorrow (or, it may not!)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Words_of_estimative_probability

  • But "likely" is an adjective here, not an adverb! – BillJ Feb 18 '18 at 12:29
  • Thanks @BillJ Yes I just read that, somewhere else! – Jelila Feb 18 '18 at 12:36

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