Explanations » B1+ Grammar Explanations » Likely, unlikely, bound, definitely, probably – probability

Expressions for speculation – Grammar chart

likely, unlikely, bound, definitely, probably – probability

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We use the adjectives bound and sure to say that we are quite certain that something will be true or happen in the future. We say be bound/sure + to + infinitive.

  • The Jamaican is bound/sure to win the final.
  • The final is bound/sure to be intense and dramatic.

We can also use there is/are bound/sure to be to say that we are quite certain that something will exist in the future.

  • There are bound/sure to be some discrepancies during the meeting, so be prepared.



Likely and unlikely are adjectives. If something is likely to happen or if it’s likely that something will happen, it means that it will probably happen or that it is expected to happen.

If something is is unlikely to happen or if it’s unlikely that something will happen, it means that it probably won’t happen.

We can use these two adjectives in two different ways:

It is likely/unlikely that + clause (subject + verb …)

  • It’s likely that just in a few years we will change our economic model.
  • It’s unlikely that the police had anything to do about it.

Note that we can also use these adjectives to speculate about the past.

➪ Subject + be likely/unlikely + to + infinitive

  • He is likely to win this game.
  • They are unlikely to reach an agreement.

As likely and unlikely are adjectives, we can use them in comparative or superlative forms, or after quite, very, etc.

  • Stubborn children are more likely to become successful. 
  • They are the most likely to win the World Cup. 
  • It‘s very unlikely that he’ll be sent to prison. 



We use definitely and probably before the main verb and after the auxiliary verb (if there is one) in affirmative sentences.

  • You’ll definitely get the job. Nobody’s got your qualifications and experience.
  • He’s probably our best player.

And definitely and probably go before the auxiliary verb in negative sentences.

  • They probably won’t find any evidence.
  • She definitely isn’t seeing anyone right now.

But if we don’t use short forms, definitely and probably go after the auxiliary verb and before not.

  • They will probably not find any evidence.
  • She is definitely not seeing anyone right now.