Modal Verb Tutorial

Modals are special verbs which behave very irregularly in English. What are Modal Verbs ? Modal verbs are special verbs which behave very differently from normal verbs. Here are some important differences: 1. Modal verbs do not take "-s" in the third person. EXAMPLES: He can speak Chinese. She should be here by 9:00. 2. You use "not" to make modal verbs negative, even in Simple Present and Simple Past. EXAMPLES: He should not be late. They might not come to the party. 3. Many modal verbs cannot be used in the past tenses or the future tenses. EXAMPLES: He will can go with us. NOT CORRECT She musted study very hard. NOT CORRECT

Common Modal Verbs Can Could May Might Must Ought to Shall Should Will Would

IMPORTANT: For the purposes of this tutorial, we have included some expressions which are not modal verbs including had better, have to and have got to. These expressions are closely related to modals in meaning and are often interchanged with them.

Modal verbs come before and modify the main verb in a sentence and help explain ideas like possibility, necessity, or obligation. Here are several modal verbs and their functions: Might: Expresses uncertainty about the present or future, as in, "I might quit my job next month," or, "It might be cold out, so bring a jacket." Can: Expresses ability or possibility, as in, "I can speak French and Spanish," or, "Students can get cheaper tickets at the movies." Also asks permission or makes a request, as in, "Can you come over tonight?" Should: Expresses obligation, as in, "I should study for my math test," or probability, as in, "The package should arrive tomorrow, since I sent it last week." Also gives advice, as in, "I think you should go out with Jesse." Must: Expresses necessity or obligation, as in, "I must go see my grandmother this weekend." Also gives strong advice, as in, "You must quit smoking now that you're pregnant."

I can drive Susan's car while she is out of 3. SHIFTS TO "BE ALLOWED" I was allowed to drive Susan's car while she I wasn't allowed to drive Susan's car while may was out of town last week. I can speak Chinese 2. to be able 3. I can't drive Susan's car when she is out town. I won't have any time later. SHIFTS TO "COULD" I could speak Chinese when I was a kid. SHIFTS TO "BE ABLE TO" 3. 1. 3. can opportunity 2. With a burst of adrenaline. I wasn't able help her at that time. I'll have some free time tomorrow. I can help her then.) (This use is usually a generalization or an supposition. people can pick 1. to help her at that time. up cars. I can drive Susan's car when she is out of 1.Can 1. You can also use: Modal Use Negative Forms 1. Present 2. of town next week. can permission 2. I can't help her then. to be able 1. Past 3. People can't pick up cars. could (This use is usually a generalization or an supposition. SHIFTS TO "BE ABLE TO" I will be able to speak Chinese by the time I I won't be able to speak Swahili. I don't have any time. Future 1. of town. couldn't lift the car off the child's leg. 1. he was able to lift the car off the child's leg. SHIFTS TO "COULD" I couldn't speak Swahili. SHIFTS TO "BE ALLOWED" 2. SHIFTS TO "BE ABLE TO" 3. I have some free time. 1. can ability during a specific event 2.) . can general ability to be able 3. SHIFTS TO "BE ABLE TO" With a sudden burst of adrenaline. 2. You can't be 45! I thought you were about Learning a language can be a real challenge. I can help her now. SHIFTS TO "BE ABLE TO" Even the weight lifter. 3. she was out of town last week. know the right people. SHIFTS TO "BE ABLE TO" 2. I can't speak Swahili. 2. SHIFTS TO "BE ABLE TO" I had some free time yesterday. able to lift the car. SHIFTS TO "BE ABLE TO" Even three men working together won't be With a sudden burst of adrenaline. I can't help her now. I was able to I didn't have time yesterday. Can I have a glass of water? can request Can you give me a lift to school? (Requests usually refer to the near future.) Can't I have a glass of water? Can't you give me a lift to school? (Requests usually refer to the near future.) could may can possibility / impossibility Anyone can become rich and famous if they It can't cost more than a dollar or two. 18 years old. 3. he will be able to lift the car. finish my course. I can't drive Susan's car while she is out town next week.

Future 1. Mary couldn't be the one who stole the money. may 3. desperate hope/ warning They had better be here before we start dinner. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" OR "OUGHT TO" People should unplug toasters before they clean them. Negative Forms 1. could past ability I could run ten miles in my twenties. I couldn't travel world. might (Requests usually refer to the near future. Even if I had more time this winter. travel around the world. I could around the world. Present 2. They had better not be late. Past 3. 1. I could have conditional traveled around the world. the police finish the investigation. You could have spent your vacation in Hawaii. John could be charged with the crime when crime after the police examine the evidence. Mary couldn't have been the one who stole the might. Even if I had had more time. money. 3. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" OR "OUGHT TO" should. (Desperate hopes and warnings usually refer (Desperate hopes and warnings usually . I could speak Chinese when I was a kid. Mary couldn't possibly be charged with the 3. Even if I had more time. John could be the one who stole the money. Present 2. had better The movie had better end soon. could) 2. 3. You could spend your vacation in Hawaii. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" OR "OUGHT TO" People shouldn't clean toasters without unplugging them first.) Had Better 1. Couldn't you help me with this for just a second? may. 3. Couldn't he come with us? can. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" OR "OUGHT TO" recommendation You should have unplugged the toaster before you tried to clean it.) I couldn't run more than a mile in my twenties. I couldn't have traveled around the world. I could travel around the 1. You had better not clean the toaster until you unplug it. 2. If I had more time this winter. Past 3. could 2. 3. You can also use: could possibility 2. John could have been the one who stole the money. 2. If I had more time. They had better not forget Tom's birthday gift. 1. had better 2. Future 1.Could Modal Use 1. If I had had more time. be able to I couldn't speak Swahili. NO PRESENT FORM could suggestion 2. Could I have something to drink? could polite request Could borrow your stapler? (Requests usually refer to the near future. You had better unplug the toaster before you try to clean it. You can also use: NO NEGATIVE FORMS Modal Use Negative Forms 1. I could travel 3. (can. You shouldn't have cleaned the toaster ought to without unplugging it first. around the world.

) refer to the near future. American Literature 101 is the only required course. You have got to be there on time tonight if you want to get a seat in the crowded theater. She won't have to take any other literature classes. Future You can also use: 1. optional reading for extra credit. I don't have to take any tests. The course is just for fun. He was with bright red hair. "Must not" "Do not have to" suggests that someone is not required to do something.to the near future. Present 2. I didn't have to take the test. SHIFT TO "DON'T HAVE TO" You won't have to be there on time to get a seat. She has to read four books for this literature 1. Have Got to 1. crowded theater. She will have to finish the other books before the final exam. You had to be on time if you wanted to get a seat in the crowded You didn't have to be there on must theater. That has to be Jerry. 2. don't have to 2." She had to give a presentation to her class. have to necessity 2. 3. 3. SHIFT TO "DON'T HAVE 2. SHIFT TO "DON'T HAVE TO" People don't have to be there 1. Have to 1. must Modal Use Negative Forms 1. I won't have to take the test. 3. SHIFTS TO "MUST" 1. 2. The teacher let choice/ me do a report instead. have got to necessity 2. supposed to have red hair. NONE 1. That must not have been the right restaurant. time to get a seat. She had to finish the first book before the midterm. SHIFTS TO "MUST" have got There are no other restaurants on this street. . 2. REMEMBER: "Do not have to" vs." It's class. no obligation 3. SHIFT TO "HAVE TO" TO" have to. They said he was tall That must not have been Jerry we saw. She doesn't have to read "Grapes of Wrath. NONE 3. Past 3. "Must not" suggests that you are prohibited from doing something. 3. 3. That has to have been the right restaurant. have to certainty must. Present Modal Use 2. It's going to be for extra credit and I don't need the points. I guess to there is another one around here somewhere. Future You can also use: Negative Forms 1.) "Had better" is often simply pronounced as "better" in spoken English. Past 3. People have got to be on time if they want to get a seat in the on time to get a seat. She didn't have to write a critique of "The Scarlet Letter.

She might have taken the bus. Jack may not be upset. Jack may be upset. She might problems. 1. You're not finished with your dinner yet. I win. might suggestion 1. might if he was annoyed or tired. even if you tell him the truth 1.) Might 1. might) 3. might possibility 2. requests (Requests usually refer to the near future. might Modal Use Negative Forms 1.) May 1. You may not leave the table. Perhaps he is tired. If I entered the contest. Even if I had entered the contest. I'm not sure how she got to work. NO PRESENT FORM 1. Perhaps he was 2. might not win. I might actually 3. I can't really tell if he is annoyed or tired. She could. may May I make a phone call. may possibility You can also use: Don't you. Present 2. NO PRESENT FORM could . You may not leave the table until you are finished dinner. I might not win. If I had entered the contest. may permission 2. (may. She might not take the bus. might have walked home. She might not be on the bus. You may leave the table now that you're finished with your dinner. may 3. 1. I might actually have 2. I might actually win. She might be on the bus. SHIFT TO "BE ALLOWED TO" You were allowed to leave the table after you finished your dinner. 2. Jack may get upset if you don't tell him the truth.Haven't you got to be there by 7:00? haven't got to Haven't you got to finish that project today? future obligation ("Haven't got to" is primarily used to ask about future obligations. SHIFT TO "HAVE TO" You were not allowed to leave the table because you hadn't finished your dinner. Unfortunately. May I borrow your eraser. 3. can 3. I couldn't really tell tired. I can't enter it. Even if I entered the contest tomorrow. I don't think 3. with your dinner. Jack may not get upset. Jack may have been upset. Even if I entered the contest. 2. Past 3. Present Modal Use 2. It can be used in statements. You may leave the table when you finish your 3. Future 1. 3. might 2. Past 3. Jack may not have been upset. be walking home. Future You can also use: NO NEGATIVE FORM can. I think her car is having 1. I conditional won. 2. She might not have taken the bus. but this is less common. If I entered the contest tomorrow. She might take the bus to get home. have to Negative Forms 1. She might Bill will be able to give her a ride. might not have won. get a ride from Bill. 1.

That must have been the right 2. 2. Present 2. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" You should have taken some time off last week to get some rest.) 2. 3. You mustn't drink so much.") 2. You must take some time off and get some rest. 2. SHIFT TO "HAVE TO" We don't have to get a permit to enter the national park. You might not want to eat the cheese cake. You must have a permit to enter the national park. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" You shouldn't drink at the party. must necessity (Americans prefer the form "have to. must certainty You can also use: Modal Use Negative Forms 1. They said he was tall with bright red hair. 1. We must get a permit to enter the park next week. might request (British form) Might I have something to drink? Might I borrow the stapler? (Requests usually refer to the near future. national park. It's not good for your health. 1. somewhere. Future 1. have to Ought to . must strong recommendation 2. That must not have been the right restaurant. It's very calorific. "Could not" suggests that it is impossible for something to happen. 3. 3. SHIFT TO "HAVE TO" 2. There are no other restaurants I guess there is another one around here on this street. Must 1. PAST FORM UNCOMMON 3. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" You shouldn't have drunk so much. That caused should the accident. "Could not" "Might not" suggests you do not know if something happens. That must not be Jerry. 3. You might have tried the cheese cake. 1.) 1.2. 3. can NEGATIVE FORMS UNCOMMON REMEMBER: "Might not" vs. Past 3. could. NO FUTURE FORM You must not swim in that river. He is supposed to have red hair.") You should take some time off next week to get some rest. have to restaurant. may. SHIFT TO "SHOULD" "should. You might try the cheesecake. 3. You are going to be the designated driver. (Prohibition usually refer to the near future. NO FUTURE FORM must not prohibition You must not forget to take your malaria medication while your are in the tropics. It's full of crocodiles. SHIFT TO "HAVE TO" We didn't have to get a permit to enter the We had to have a permit to enter the park. SHIFT TO "HAVE TO" We won't have to get a permit to enter the national park. (Americans prefer the form 3. That must be Jerry.

) Shall 1. shall The marketing director shall be replaced by someone future action from the New York office. She ought to have received the package yesterday. We shall overcome oppression. Margaret ought not exercise too much. (British form) Fred shall be there by 8:00. She ought to have the package by now. Man shall never give up the exploration of the universe. Margaret ought to come to the fitness the TV. Margaret ought not stay at home in front of 3. shall I shall take care of everything for you. He has a previous obligation. You can also use: ought to recommendation/ advisability 2. Margaret ought not have run the marathon. "Ought not" is used primarily to express negative recommendation. There's no need to I shall never give up the fight for worry. Past 3. He shall not be held back. should ought not (Americans prefer "should not". 3. freedom. 3. Present 2. ought to assumption/ expectation/ probability 2. It might cause injury. She should go to the fitness center with center with us tonight. should the marathon. Future You can also use: Modal Use Negative Forms The marketing director shall not be replaced after all. She ought to receive the package tonight. Negative Forms 1. 1. Margaret ought to have exercised 2. I shall never forget you. us. (Notice that there is no "to" in the negative form. Present 2. will Fred shall not be there.Modal Use 1.) Margaret ought not exercise too much. Future 1. (British form) shall inevitability (British form) Man shall explore the distant regions of the universe. Margaret ought to exercise more. more so she would be better prepared for She wasn't in good shape. will Should . volunteering/ promising I shall make the travel arrangements. Past 3.

1. ought to. There's no need to I will never give up the fight for worry. Past 3. Future Negative Forms 1. 2. Susan shouldn't be in New York yet. to should obligation be supposed. Past 3. That's what caused her health problems. Sarah shouldn't have smoked so much. We should return the video before the video rental store closes. Negative Forms The marketing director will not be replaced after all. 2. I should be at work before 9:00. Will Modal Use 1. People with high cholesterol should eat low fat foods. Present 2. Martha hates when people smoke in her house. That might recommendation have prevented his heart attack. Susan should be in New York by next week. Fred will be there by 8:00. Sarah shouldn't smoke when she visits Martha next week. Susan should be in New York by now.) 1. freedom. Sarah shouldn't smoke so much. Susan shouldn't have arrived in be supposed New York until yesterday. Let's call her and see what she is up to. to 3. Susan should have arrived in New York last week. ought to 3. I will never forget you. Her new 3. Present 2. "Be supposed to" expresses a similar idea and can easily be used in the past or in negative forms. shall I will take care of everything for you. Susan shouldn't arrive in New job starts on Monday. You can also use: will future action/ prediction shall Fred will not be there. NO NEGATIVE FORMS ("Should" can also express something between recommendation and obligation. You can also use: 1. Future The marketing director will be replaced by someone from the New York office. should assumption/ expectation/ probability 2.Modal Use 1. advisability 3. Would . should 2. will volunteering/ promising I will make the travel arrangements. It's not good for her health. York until next week. You really should start eating better. Frank should have eaten low fat foods. He has a previous obligation.

When I was a kid. When he was young. He told me he would be here before 8:00. I would not raise taxes. I wouldn't go into the water by myself. used to When he got older. Passive Perfect Modal The room should have been cleaned yesterday. I would cut increase next week. Perfect Modal I could have swum at the beach yesterday. If I were President. he would always do his homework. If I had been President.Modal Use 1. Future 1. If I were elected President next year. would past of will would repetition in past I said I would help you. Past 3. I would have cut the cost of education. (Rare form) . Negative Forms 1. Continuous Modal I could be swimming at the beach right now. If I were President. Passive Simple Modal The room should be cleaned once a day. 2. I would not have raised taxes. I would cut the cost of education. the cost of education. Modal Forms Simple Modal I could swim at the beach. Passive Continuous Modal The room should be being cleaned now. 3. If I were President. If I had been President. When I was a kid. Present 2. I would always go to the beach. You can also use: would conditional 2. He told me he would not be here before 8:00. Perfect Continuous Modal I could have been swimming at the beach instead of working in the office. Passive Perfect Continuous Modal The room should have been being cleaned but nobody was there. I said I wouldn't help you. he would never do his homework. I would not sign the tax 3.

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