Le moteur, ça doit pouvoir se trouver là-bas.

I have always wondered if this juxtaposition of two auxiliary verbs "devoir/must" and "pouvoir/may" – both of which denote a different degree of probability – is considered legitimate.

Shouldn't we just pick one or the other?

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is correct.

In this quote, "devoir" is used as a modal verb, as would the verbs "pouvoir/can", "sembler/seems" and "paraître/appear" (which could also be used in this sentence).

You can find more informations on Wikipédia: Les auxiliaires de modalité épistémique : sembler, paraître, pouvoir, devoir.

They are used to add some degree of uncertainty.

If you use "ça doit se trouver là bas" you are pretty sure it is, with "ça peut se trouver là bas" you are pretty sure it can be, and with "ça doit pouvoir se trouver là bas" you just think it makes sense and it should be there, but you're not sure of anything.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.