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A question in an English exercise book puzzled me.

The instruction is "Complete the second sentence so that it means the same as the first, using the word in bold. Use between two and five words."

The question is

I'm certain Emily realises that she's made a mistake.
must
Emily _____________________ that she's made a mistake.

The model answer reads "must realise"

"Must realise" sounds like "has to realise" here to me. I am not sure whether my judgment is correct. I am more inclined to "must have realised" (though the tense has changed), followed by "must be realising" (continuous tense for realise is not quite natural to me) .

My question is, can "Emily must realise that she's made a mistake" mean "I'm certain Emily realises that she's made a mistake"?

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The model answer is quite correct. The speaker is saying that given what he knows Emily knows, she has no alternative but to realise she has made a mistake. In that sense, she does "have to" realise.

If you put the word "surely" in the sentence it would still have the same meaning but it would be clearer that the speaker is trying to put himself in Emily's position and see things as she does.

None of this means that Emily does in fact so realise. But then none of us always do what we "have to".

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  • Thank you very much! Now I understand better. Your explanations are very clear. – Jason Tong Feb 10 '18 at 1:33
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Yes, "Emily must realise that she's made a mistake" means "I'm certain Emily realises that she's made a mistake". That's because one of the meanings of must is absolute certainty. Here are more examples to illustrate this:

  1. She must be his sister (= I am sure she is his sister).
  2. You must know her (= I am certain that you know her).

If you need to express the same meaning (of absolute certainty) but refer to the past, you need to use must + have + past participle:

  1. Emily must have realised that she'd made a mistake (= I'm certain Emily realised that she'd made a mistake).
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  • Thank you very much! Now I understand better. Your explanations are very clear. – Jason Tong Feb 10 '18 at 1:32
  • Thank you for your feedback! Are you preparing for FCE? If so, good luck in your exam! – Enguroo Feb 10 '18 at 2:45

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