3 Adverbs of Probability – Definitely, Probably, and Maybe

I want to teach you some helpful English that I taught to one of my private students here in Japan. We were talking and 3 common Adverbs of Probability came up. Definitely, Probably, and Maybe. The content of this post is from a real lesson, a natural conversation with some useful English grammar and expressions.

definitely100%
probably70-80%
maybe50%

Definitely shows that we have high confidence. It is almost certain.
Probably shows some confidence but not certainty.
Maybe indicates something is possible to happen but not likely or unlikely. There is a 50/50 chance.

Keep reading for more real, natural English examples, from a native-speaking teacher. This is the best way to learn new English.

“If you buy a cheap computer, you will definitely have problems after a year or two. Cheap electronics never last.”

– Cheap electronics always break after a short period of time. It’s almost guaranteed.
“If you pay a high price, the thing you buy will probably be high quality.”

– There is a good chance that expensive goods will be of higher quality.
A: “Will you join us for a drink on Friday?”
B: “Maybe. I’m not sure if my boss wants us to work overtime or not.

– It’s possible that I can come but I’m not sure. The chances are about 50/50.

Real Lesson Example

My student and I were talking about clothes that are very cheap. I said it feels good to get a sweater for just a few dollars, but the problem is you get what you pay for.

I explained:

“If you pay a high price, the thing you buy will probably be high quality. If you pay a low price, the thing that you buy will be of lower quality. It won’t last very long or it will damage easily.”

My student understood the feeling, but he wasn’t sure about the word probably.

“the thing you bought will probably be high quality”

Probably – Meaning and Pronunciation

Probably is an adverb used to show how likely something is to happen or be true.

probably adverb – OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com 

We use the adverb probably quite often in English conversation. 

  • Mackenzie will probably be at the party. 
  • Leonard will probably be late for the meeting this afternoon, he’s always late. 

Let me give you a quick pronunciation note about the word probably.

The word probably has 3 syllables: PRAW-BAB-LEE. Native speakers,talking at natural speed will often reduce the word to 2 syllables – (I do this all the time!)

PRAW-BLEE
“I’ll probably [PRAW-BLEE] be late for dinner tonight, I have a meeting after work.”

Probably pronunciation
Adverbs of Probability

Common Pronunciation Question. Dessert vs Desert – Pronounce these words CORRECTLY(Audio)

3 Common Adverbs of Probability

Here are the dictionary definitions for these three adverbs. 

definitely adverb
a way of emphasizing that something is true and that there is no doubt about it
definitely adverb – OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com 

probably adverb
used to say that something is likely to happen or to be true
probably adverb – OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com 

maybe adverb
used when you are not certain that something will happen or that something is true or is a correct number
maybe adverb – OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com

An easy way to understand probability is with a simple chart. This is what I showed my student for these 3 common adverbs of probability.

definitely 100% I’m very confident that this is true
probably 70-80% I’m confident that this is true
maybe 50% This could be true or not true

If we say definitely
We are very confident that something will happen or that something is true. Our confidence is 100%.

“If you buy a cheap computer, you will definitely have problems after a year or two. Cheap electronics never last.” 

A: “Do you think Toyota makes quality cars?”
B: “Definitely. That company has a long history of making cars that perform well and last a long time.”


If we say maybe
We feel something may happen or may be true. Our confidence is around the middle. 50%

A: “Will you join us for a drink on Friday?”
B: “Maybe. I’m not sure if my boss wants us to work overtime or not. I’ll call you tomorrow at 5:00 and let you know.”

What Is The Difference Between PROBABLY And MAYBE?

What is the difference between probably and maybe?
Adverbs of Probability

Probably is somewhere between Definitely and Maybe. Our confidence level is more than 50%, but not quite 100%.

“If you pay a high price, the thing you buy will probably be high quality.”

Probably shows a higher level of confidence than maybe.

Adverb Examples

Definitely

Rebecca is having a huge party this weekend and I’m definitely going. All my friends will be there.
I have met Steven 3 times and I think he’s about 215 cm tall. He’s definitely over 200, I’m sure about that.
If our food is not ready in the next 10 minutes I’m definitely going to complain to the manager. This is not acceptable. 

Probably

Don’t forget to take your umbrella, it’s probably going to rain tonight.
Jerry’s car is gone from the parking lot so he probably went home.
Vincent is tired all the time, probably because he works too much.

Maybe

I haven’t seen Jerry since 1:00. Maybe he went home after lunch.
I can talk to Daryl but maybe it’s too late.
The boss was yelling at Elliott today in his office. maybe Elliott got fired. 

Idiom – You Get What You Pay For

Here is the definition of “You get what you pay for” From Wiktionary.org

・In commercial transactions, the quality of goods and services increases as the prices increase, i.e., the more one pays, the better the merchandise. 

Very simply this means the price you pay relates to the quality of the goods.

If you buy something from the Dollar store, the quality of whatever you bought will not be very good because the price is so low.

Idiom - You get what you pay for

 4 MORE examples with You get what you pay for


Frank: “This coffee tastes awful!”
Leon: “It was 75 cents, what do you expect! You get what you pay for.”


“I don’t mind paying a little more for organic vegetables, they are healthy and they don’t use dangerous chemicals. They’re expensive but you get what you pay for.”


“I was happy to find these shoes for such a low price, but they fell apart after 3 weeks. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. You get what you pay for.”


“Your computer always crashes because it’s junk. You should have spent more money and got a good brand, you get what you pay for.”

Do you know the difference between HAVE and HAVE GOT? Learn all about it at my blog post here: Have or Have got? #1 Guide – 50 examples (Video-PDF)

Check out these other great posts

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: