She must live close to where she works because she walks to work.

This sentence is given as an example of "must" being used for deduction in the present. However, when I read the sentence, I thought it might not only refer to "a deduction" but it can also refer to "a necessity".

So, the sentence can have 2 meanings for me:

1-It is a deduction. And it means I suppose she is living somewhere close to her workplace, because she comes to workplace on foot. So, she can't be living far away.

2-I feel sorry for her, because the poor woman walks to work which must be tiring for her. She is poor, so she tries not to take the bus. Instead, she walks to work every day, because she wants to save that money to buy something else. So, I feel sorry for her and I think it is a must for her to find another house to live in, and I say "She must live close to where she works because she walks to work."

I am not quite sure. Is the second meaning not likely?

  • 1
    It's a deduction - the clue is 'because she walks to work'. Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 21:30

2 Answers 2


It is a deduction.

I see your point. Consider the sentence

He must take out the trash, because his husband tells him to.

That sentence would be understood as "He has to take out the trash..."

So there is no difference in the grammar. The reason that the sentences are interpreted differently must be pragmatic. The instructions of a husband might be a thing that compels you take out the trash. But walking to work is not the reason you live close. Instead, walking to work is a consequence of living close to work.

So we are unlikely to understand the sentence as "She does walk to work. And this compels her to live close to work" instead we observe the fact that she walks to work and deduce that she lives close by.

The given sentence expresses a deduction.


Most often this statement would be a deduction - the speaker knows that she lives close to her workplace because she walks there (from home). The other meaning (necessity) is allowed by the syntax, and context would make it clear which is the intended meaning. As an example, if the speaker was a support person speaking to a real estate agent about a new place for her to live, the sentence would be saying that she needs to find a place close to her work because she walks to work (and she needs to continue to walk to work).

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