Some days ago I got a sentence on my lesson, which I had to rephrase. The sentence was:

“I m sure, that the Smiths bought this house”

And I said

“ The Smiths must have bought this house”.

My teacher made me feel confused about it, because she said that it was wrong. Is she right?

  • Your sentence does not include anything about you being sure. – Michael Harvey Feb 9 '19 at 15:56
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    The punctuation in the example could be improved. There should be no comma after "that" and "I'm" should have an apostrophe. – James K Feb 9 '19 at 18:45
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    Did teacher give the "correct" answer that you should have written? @JamesK explained why "must have bought this house" is based on evidence or your own reasoning, and based on that I agree that your version isn't an exact re-wording of the original, but it's unclear what the teacher was actually expecting. Without any contextual information I don't know (as a native speaker) how I would rephrase that "I'm sure that the Smiths bought this house"! ETA: if she didn't, I would (in your position) ask for what she thinks the 'right' answer is! – seventyeightist Feb 9 '19 at 18:53
  • I think I must have turned away from her, because she put her hand on my arm. I looked down and I saw the silver rings on her fingers and the bracelet on her arm and the chipped blue polish on her fingers. -- from Into the water. – Zhang Dec 3 '19 at 3:22

When you paraphrase you hope to give a sentence with similar meaning. There are very few pairs of sentences with exactly the same meaning, register, tone and nuance.

"Must have" is used to indicate deductions or conclusions from evidence.

The pavement is wet, it must have been raining

It implies that you did not directly observe the rain, and so suggests slight doubt:

It must have been raining.
No, I think the kids have been playing with water.

There is a similar effect from adding "I'm sure..." or "... definitely ...". The fact you feel the need to say "I'm sure" actually makes it sound less certain. Compare:

Peter is a good boy. (simple assertion)
I'm sure that Peter is a good boy. (Why do you need to say this, unless there was some doubt).

Saying "The Smiths must have bought this house" means that you have worked it out from evidence and reasoning. It is close in meaning to "I'm sure that the Smiths have bought this house." I'd accept it as a reasonable paraphrase, though not exactly the same.

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