He can play. = He is able to play.

He cannot play. = He is unable to play.

He must not play. = He is forbidden to play. He is prohibited from playing.

He must play. = He is compelled/forced/obliged to play. He has to play.

He should play. = He is advised to play. or He is likely/expected/supposed to play. It is probable that he will.

He may play. = He is allowed to play. or He is ??? to play. It is possible that he will.

Is there an ordinary verb, an adjective, or a past participle, which can replace 'may/might' in a sentence that has a personal noun or pronoun, and not the preparatory 'it' as subject?

  • 'He is uncertain to play' goes beyond 'It is possible that he will play' to 'It is fairly unlikely that he will play'. 'He's a possible' doubtless uses 'possible' nounally. Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 15:56
  • Depending on context, you might get away with “he is available to play”, ie there is nothing to prevent him playing.
    – pbasdf
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 16:54
  • poised, allowable/permissed, "within possibility", conceivable, prospective
    – 11qq00
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 15:15
  • readi-able, prepared, readied, ready, preparable, doable
    – 11qq00
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 15:56

2 Answers 2

  • He is liable to play.

(OALD) liable to do something — likely to do something

This dictionary adds the word "probable" to the definition of "liable" (which is not yet "possible" but is nevertheless close in meaning).

probable, likely, or capable
It's liable to happen soon

  • I gave up because I couldn't think of a decent answer. Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 16:48
  • @EdwinAshworth: ... which is why this website exists, right? To try and give answers to questions whose answers are not easily found in reference books...
    – user58319
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 20:56
  • @user58319 The comment is under the answer, not the question. 'Liable' talks about probability, not possibility (though admittedly the question becomes less clear in the 5th stanza). Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 11:46

He may play. = He is unsure about playing / to play

(or We are unsure about his playing)

There are always politicians who try to win through violence what they are unsure to win through civilised politicking. West Africa, Issues 4335-4365 p.39

Party leaders want to maximize votes when they are unsure about winning, but at some British elections in this period the Conservatives were certain to win anyway. Patrick Dunleavy; Democracy, Bureaucracy and Public Choice p.105

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