What Has Happened to Kate Middleton?: Past Modals of Deduction

In early 2024 the world media went crazy, all trying to work out what had happened to Kate Middleton after she disappeared following a hospital stay. The hashtag #WhereisKateMiddleton appeared all over social media as people speculated why she had disappeared from the public eye. Watch the video from 7News Australia which gives a timeline of events and speculates over what might have happened.


The grammatical structures below can be used to make guesses or deductions about what happened to her.


When You Are Certain


If you are certain about what happened in the past you need to use the modal verbs Must and Can’t to speculate and give your opinion.


To make these verbs refer to the past you need to put Have and the Past Participle after the modal verb.


Must means you are sure something happened and Can’t is used when you are sure something didn’t happen. Look at the example sentences.


It must have been difficult to have both the King and Princess Catherine (Kate) in hospital at the same time. (= I imagine it definitely was difficult)


The Royal Family can’t have imagined there would be so much media attention revolving the event. (= It’s impossible that they imagined there would be so much media attention)



When You Are Not Certain


If you have doubts and you are speculating you need to use May and Might. Again, to make these verbs talk about the past we need to use Have and the Past Participle after the modal verb. They can be used in positive and negative.


The Royal Family may have wanted to protect the princess’ privacy. (I think this, but I am not sure)


The Royal Family might not have known how to respond. (It is possible they didn’t know how to respond)




Kate Middleton’s Timeline of Events


First watch the video and then look at the timeline of Princess Catherine’s (Kate’s) events and see how we can make deductions about what happened.


12th September: Finger injury


Kate might have sprained her fingers or she may have fractured a bone.



5th October


It must have been a pretty rough trampolining accident if it was still bandaged after 3 weeks.


22nd December: William and Kate Announce Trip


Wills and Kate can’t have known Kate was going to have surgery at this time because they announced a trip to Italy for early 2024.



28th December: Ambulance seen at Sandringham


Something serious must have happened at Buckingham Palace if there was an ambulance seen flying out of Sandringham.


Charles might have been in the ambulance, as Sandringham is one of his residences.


17th January: Kate Has Surgery


It must have been a serious operation if she had to stay in hospital for 2 weeks.


It can’t have been planned surgery, because William and Kate had planned a trip to Italy at this point.



Kate’s Stay in Hospital


Visitors might not have been allowed to visit her in order to stop infection.


Kate may have been too weak to see people.


It must have been hard to be in hospital without seeing anyone for such a long time.


She might have seen people secretly and the public don’t know about it.


The Spanish journalist must have spoken to someone close to the princess or to someone at the hospital.



King’s Cancer Treatment


The King must have felt it was better to tell the public about his cancer diagnosis.


The Prince must have been extremely busy if he couldn’t visit his father in hospital.



27th February: Prince William Cancels Visit


Prince William might not have read at his godfather’s memorial because of Kate.

It must have been something important for Prince William to pull out at the last minute.



4th March: Sighting of Kate in Car


The person in the car might not have been Kate.

She may have looked different due to her surgery.



10th March: Photos Released


Kate can’t have edited the photos herself.

They must have released the photos to stop the rumours.

As people reported, the photo might have been taken in November or it might have been taken from her Vogue cover photos.


11th March: William and Kate Seen in Car


As the report says, it may or may not have been Kate in the car.





Well, obviously there are still lots of theories about what happened to Kate and we may never get the real answers, however, next time someone asks you in English ‘Where is Kate Middleton?’ at least you’ll be able to explain, in English, using the structures in this blog post.


So guys, what do you think happened to Kate Middleton?


For more speculations on this news story check out:

Fox News Story on Kate Middleton


For More on Modals of deduction in the past look at: 

British Council's article Modals: Deductions about the Past