Advanced Level >> Conversation/Speaking Materials/Discussion Starter >> Practice of past modals of deduction (must have, can't have, etc). Student read a list of improbable situations and have to discuss what may have happened. Good collection of riddles and logic puzzles.

What happened??


There is a bird in a locked room.

There is no one answer to this and you can discuss the different possibilities with your class. Some example sentences:

It can't have flown in the door.

It must've flown down the chimney.

It may have been left in there by someone.

A dead man in a diving suit is found in a forest.

This is a bit of an urban myth. Fire-fighters fighting against an inland forest fire send a helicopter to the ocean to pick up a huge bucket of water to drop on the flames. Unfortunately, our poor snorkeling diver is scooped up as well and finishes his days among the burning trees.

Someone is found hanged from the ceiling in an empty room.

They hanged themselves by standing on an ice block which has long since melted.

Hitler - personality or circumstance?

Another one which you can use to get a general all-class discussion going:

He may have been bullied at school.

He must've been treated badly by his parents.

He can't have had many friends.

A fish is found on top of a mountain.

No 'one' answer to this. Left by a mountaineering team, dropped by an osprey, etc, etc.

A lone man is found dead in a cabin on a mountain. He died from an impact to the head. How?

He is an airline pilot and the cabin is the cabin of the aircraft.

A man jumps through a tenth floor window and survives.

Silly one this!! The man is a window cleaner and jumps from his cleaning platform outside a tall building into the office.

A man walks into a restaurant. He notices that seagull soup is on the menu. He orders it and when it comes, he takes one sip, puts his spoon down, leaves the restaurant, and kills himself. Why?

Years prior he had been in a shipwreck. He and two survivors were able to make it to an island although he was seriously injured. One survivor, the man's best friend, eventually died. The remaining survivor helped this man get better by feeding him seagull soup, made from seagulls caught in a trap. Both men were eventually rescued and went about their lives. The day he entered the restaurant and tasted the soup was when he realized that it wasn't seagull soup he that helped him survive. It was soup made from the remains of his best friend.

A man was up a 34 foot ladder and he fell off it onto the ground and didn't hurt himself, not even a scratch. Why?

He was on the first rung!

Mary and John are lying dead on the floor. The window is open and the curtain is flapping in the breeze. They are surrounded by water and broken glass. How did they die?

They are goldfish in a bowl. The wind blew the curtain and knocked the bowl off the shelf!

All the students in level 6 passed their exams.


they must've studied very hard.

they may have bribed the teacher.

they can't have watched a lot of TV this year.

A man pushes his car up to a hotel. The owner of the hotel looks across at him and demands payment of $950. Why?

They are both playing Monopoly!

A man is found dead in a field holding a piece of straw, What happened?

He fell from a balloon. The balloon had two occupants, it was losing altitude very quickly and everything else had been thrown out. The two men picked straws from the basket. The man with the short straw jumped to his death!

A man wearing nothing but a scarf is found dead in an otherwise empty room, the door is locked from the inside, there are glowing embers in the fireplace, there is a puddle of water on the floor. What happened?

The man stood on a large block of ice, tied his scarf to the light fitting and then round his neck, he waiting for the fire to melt the ice and hanged himself!

A bear hunter leaves his house one morning to go hunting. He heads out his door and travels 1 km due south. He spots bear tracks and follows them due east for 1 km. He sees the bear, kills it and drags it 1 km due north and arrives exactly where he started, at the door of his house. What color was the bear?

White. It must be a polar bear as he is at the North Pole. Premium

Site Guides


Test Prep

Other Materials


Also On Site

© 2001-2024