What to Say When You’re Unsure

Cemre and his colleague Onur are having a conversation about yesterday’s meeting…

Onur: Hey Cemre! How do you think the meeting went yesterday?

Cemre: Hi Onur! Ummm… it seemed like it went well to me. Everyone shared really good ideas for the new project we want to start this week, but I’m not sure if everyone, including me, have completely bought into the idea though. Apparently, it could take several months to create this project and then it might take even more time to bring it all together. I’m just not sure if the time and effort we put into it will pay off in the end. On the other hand, maybe it will. How do you think the meeting went?

Onur: It seemed like this meeting was shorter than normal and I wish I could’ve voiced more of my thoughts, but we ran out of time. Ali pitched the project idea that we all decided on. Since I didn’t have a chance to ask him some questions yesterday during the meeting, I am meeting with him today to do that. Would you like to join us? Around 3:30?

Cemre: That’s a great idea! Possibly, but I might have call at that time. However, if I don’t I will let you know. Thanks for the invite!

Onur: You’re welcome. Sounds good!


After yesterday’s meeting, are Onur and Cemre completely sold on the new project idea?

Not really, or at least not yet. What are some specific words that give you that idea? (Before reading on, look at the above conversation again and see if any specific words stick out to you that indicate Onur and Cemre are uncertain.)

Did words such as: seemed like, apparently, maybe, and possibly stick out to you? These are words we use when we are unsure about something or someone.

Onur and Cemre are both unsure about the project idea and, in other words, are uncertain about how this project will work and if it will be worth all the time and effort in the end. Let’s take a look at some of these words…

1) Seem

The word seem is typically used to describe how something or someone appears based on observation or an impression. In Cemre’s opinion, it seemed like the meeting went well. He was describing how the meeting went from his own perspective or how it appeared to him.

On the other hand, from Onur’s perspective, the meeting seemed shorter than normal. Cemre or Onur aren’t necessarily wrong or right, but neither are 100% certain.

Examples: I seem to be misunderstood by everyone.

He seems like he is good at his job.

2) Maybe/Possibly/Perhaps

Maybe/Possibly/Perhaps are called adverbs of probability. These three words are synonyms, and they all express uncertainty. We use them when we think something is possible, but not certain. However, maybe and possibly are more commonly used because they are informal, whereas perhaps is the most formal. Therefore perhaps is the least used out of the three.

Note: Maybe and perhaps usually come at the beginning of a clause.

Examples: Maybe she will come. / Perhaps she will come.

Maybe she didn’t recognize you. / Perhaps she didn’t recognize you.

Note: Possibly usually comes in front of the main verb.

Examples: It was the most unexpected news one could possibly receive.

We will possibly go to Italy next year.

3) Apparently

We use the word apparently to indicate that the information we are giving is something that we’ve heard, but we still aren’t certain if it’s true. Look back at the example conversation above. Does Cemre know for sure, that the new project will take several months to create and maybe more to put together?

No he doesn’t. That is his conclusion based on the information he gathered from yesterday’s meeting.

Examples: Oil prices fell this week, apparently because of over-production.

Apparently he is a good writer, but I haven’t read any of his books.

Time to put these words into practice!

Write out 10 sentences using words such as maybe, apparently, possibly, perhaps, etc. that apply to your job and practice saying them out loud. After you do this, see if you can use some of these words in conversations throughout the week when you are unsure.