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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful