Discussion About Belonging

Discussion About Belonging

Degrees of modality


In this text, the characters are talking about the black and white image.

Note the use of modality. Modal verbs are a subtle use of English. They can refer to certainty, possibility or probability of an event.They can also refer to future time. Modal verbs are a feature of this discussion.

When speakers are expressing an opinion or talking about a possibility, they could be seeking agreement. For example, ‘This image could be a good one to illustrate belonging’, is not stating a fact but making a suggestion.

Use these expressions of modality when you are talking about your texts about belonging.

Rollover the text to see some language features of a discussion. The highlighted text shows degrees of modality. The notes in the box provide more information about the text.


This image could be a good one to illustrate some of the aspects of the concept belonging. What do you think?[This is the way the first person opens the discussion; the speaker is not stating a fact but discussing a possibility.]

Those six figures look as if they belong to, are part of a close group. The artist shows the connection through the way they are drawn; they all have a similar shape, are the same colour and appear attached to each other. Five of the dark figures seem to have a special connection and rapport. Their heads are inclined inwards, and at least two seem engaged in a close conversation. [The use of modality is highlighted. Write down the words which refer to the concept of belonging.]

Most of the people seem indifferent or oblivious as if they just don’t care.

Did you notice how the lines on the image divide or separate the sections of the image? This could underline the separation between the black figures and the white one. It emphasises his exclusion from the group. [Note the use of modality. Write down the words which refer to the concept of not belonging. The visual representation supports the idea. The vectors or lines seem to divide the image.]

But the black figures are tall, long and upright. Our eyes follow them straight up. This makes them seem powerful and unbending, as if they will resist the appeal of the alienated white figure. [The visual representation supports the idea with the way the vectors or lines divide the page.]

I wonder if the artist could be referring to the separation and differences between black and white races or just the way in which some people are able to belong and some do not achieve this. I think there are lots of messages here. I suppose the figure on the right will be able to cross the divide and join the group. What might both groups have to do? And anyway, there could be disadvantages. [Note the comment about the symbolic representations included in the visual representation.]

Possible but not certain

Most certain or possible