Modal Auxiliaries Verbs

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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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

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 can be used in a variety of different forms :

Modal Simple
I should clean the room once a day.
Passive Modal Simple
The room should be cleaned once a day.
Modal Continuous
I should be cleaning the room now.
Passive Modal Continuous
The room should be being cleaned now.
Modal Perfect
I should have cleaned the room yesterday.
Passive Modal Perfect
The room should have been cleaned yesterday.
Modal Perfect Continuous
I should have been cleaning the room instead of watching TV.
Passive Modal Perfect Continuous
The room should have been being cleaned but nobody was there. (Rare form)

 

What are “Modal Auxiliary Verbs”?

The verbs can, could, will, would, should, may, might, must, ought and shall are verbs which ‘help’ other verbs to express a meaning: it is important to realize that these “modal verbs” have no meaning by themselves. A modal verb such as would has several varying functions; it can be used, for example, to help verbs express ideas about the past, the present and the future. It is therefore wrong to simply believe that “would is the past of will”: it is many other things.

A few basic grammatical rules applying to modal verbs :

  1. Modal verbs are NEVER used with other auxiliary verbs such as do, does, did etc. The negative is formed simply by adding “not” after the verb; questions are formed by inversion of the verb and subject:

    You should not do that.
    Could you pick me up when I’ve finished?

  1. Modal verbs NEVER change form: you can never add an “-s” or “-ed”, for example.
  1. Modal verbs are NEVER followed by to, with the exception of ought to.

What sort of meanings do modals give to other verbs?

The meaning are usually connected with ideas of DOUBT, CERTAINTY, POSSIBILITY and PROBABILITY, OBLIGATION and PERMISSION (or lack of these). You will see that they are not used to talk about things that definitely exist, or events that definitely happened. These meanings are sometimes divided into two groups:

  1. DEGREES OF CERTAINTY: certainty; probability; possibility; impossibiliton
  2. OBLIGATION/FREEDOM TO ACT: permission,lack of permission; ability; obligation.

look at each modal verb separately, and the functions they help to express:

  • WILL

“Will” is used with promises or voluntary actions that take place in the future. “Will” can also be used to make predictions about the future.

Examples:

  • I promise that I will write you every single day. promise
  • I will make dinner tonight. voluntary action
  • He thinks it will rain tomorrow. prediction
Modal Use Positive Forms Negative Forms Also use:
will
future action,
prediction
The marketing director will be replaced by someone from the New York office.

Fred will be there by 8:00.

The marketing director will not be replaced after all.

Fred will not be there. He has a previous obligation.

shall
will
volunteering,
promising
I will take care of everything for you.

I will make the travel arrangements. There’s no need to worry.

I will never forget you.

I will never give up the fight for freedom.

shall

More Examples of “Will”

  1. Making personal predictions
  • I don’t think the Queen will ever abdicate.
  • I doubt if I’ll stay here much longer.
  1. Talking about the present with certainty (making deductions)
  • I’m sure you will understand that there is nothing the Department can do
  • There’s a letter for you. It’ll be from the bank: they said they’d be writing.
  1. Talking about the future with certainty
  • I won’t be in the office until 11; I’ve got a meeting.
  • Don’t bother ringing: they’ll have left for their 10 o’clock lecture.
  1. Talking about the past with certainty
  • I’m sure you will have noticed that attendance has fallen sharply.
  1. Reassuring someone
  • Don’t worry! You’ll settle down quickly, I’m sure.
  • It’ll be all right! You won’t have to speak by yourself.
  1. Making a decision
  • For the main course I’ll have grilled tuna.
  • I’m very tired. I think I’ll stay at home tonight.
  1. Making a semi-formal request
  • Will you open the window, please? It’s very hot in here.
  • Sign this, will you?
  1. Offering to do something
  • You stay there! I’ll fetch the drinks.
  1. Insistence; habitual behaviour
  • I’m not surprised you don’t know what to do! You will keep talking in class.
  • Damn! My car won’t start. I’ll have to call the garage.
  1. Making a promise or a threat
  2. You can count on me! I’ll be there at 8 o’clock sharp.

If you don’t finish your dinner off, you’ll go straight to bed!

  • SHALL

“Shall” is used to indicate future action. It is most commonly used in sentences with “I” or “we,” and is often found in suggestions, such as “Shall we go?” “Shall” is also frequently used in promises or voluntary actions. In formal English, the use of “shall” to describe future events often expresses inevitability or predestination. “Shall” is much more commonly heard in British English than in American English; Americans prefer to use other forms, although they do sometimes use “shall” in suggestions or formalized language.

Examples:

  • Shall I help you? suggestion
  • I shall never forget where I came from. promise
  • He shall become our next king. predestination
  • I’m afraid Mr. Smith shall become our new director. inevitability
Modal Use Positive Forms Negative Forms Also use:
shall
future action

(British form)

I shall be replaced by someone from the New York office.

I shall be there by 8:00.

I shall not be replaced after all.

I shall not be there. I have a previous obligation.

will
shall
suggestions
Shall we begin dinner?

Shall we move into the living room?

should
shall
volunteering,
promising

(British form)

I shall take care of everything for you.

I shall make the travel arrangements. There’s no need to worry.

I shall never forget you.

I shall never give up the fight for freedom.

will
shall
inevitability

(British form)

Man shall explore the distant regions of the universe.

We shall overcome oppression.

Man shall never give up the exploration of the universe.

He shall not be held back.

More Examples of “Shall”

Shall is a form of will, used mostly in the first person. Its use, however, is decreasing, and in any case in spoken English it would be contracted to “-ll” and be indistinguishable from will.

The only time you do need to use it is in questions, when:

  • Making offers
    Shall I fetch you another glass of wine?
  • Making suggestions
    Shall we go to the cinema tonight?
  • MAY & MIGHT

“May” is most commonly used to express possibility. It can also be used to give or request permission, although this usage is becoming less common.

Examples:

  • Cheryl may be at home, or perhaps at work. possibility
  • Johnny, you may leave the table when you have finished your dinner. give permission
  • May I use your bathroom? request permission

Using “May” in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “may” behaves in different contexts.

Modal Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
may
possibility
1. Jack may be upset. I can’t really tell if he is annoyed or tired.

2. Jack may have been upset. I couldn’t really tell if he was annoyed or tired.

3. Jack may get upset if you don’t tell him the truth.

1. Jack may not be upset. Perhaps he is tired.

2. Jack may not have been upset. Perhaps he was tired.

3. Jack may not get upset, even if you tell him the truth

might
may
give permission
1. You may leave the table now that you’re finished with your dinner.

2. SHIFT TO “BE ALLOWED TO”
You were allowed to leave the table after you finished your dinner.

3. You may leave the table when you finish your dinner.

1. You may not leave the table. You’re not finished with your dinner yet.

2. SHIFT TO “BE ALLOWED TO”
You were not allowed to leave the table because you hadn’t finished your dinner.

3. You may not leave the table until you are finished with your dinner.

can
may
request permission
May I borrow your eraser?

May I make a phone call?

Requests usually refer to the near future.

NO NEGATIVE FORMS can,
might

 

“Might” is most commonly used to express possibility. It is also often used in conditional sentences. English speakers can also use “might” to make suggestions or requests, although this is less common in American English.

Examples:

  • Your purse might be in the living room. possibility
  • If I didn’t have to work, I might go with you. conditional
  • You might visit the botanical gardens during your visit. suggestion
  • Might I borrow your pen? request

Using “Might” in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “might” behaves in different contexts.

Modal Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
might
possibility
1. She might be on the bus. I think her car is having problems.

2. She might have taken the bus. I’m not sure how she got to work.

3. She might take the bus to get home. I don’t think Bill will be able to give her a ride.

1. She might not be on the bus. She might be walking home.

2. She might not have taken the bus. She might have walked home.

3. She might not take the bus. She might get a ride from Bill.

could,
may
might
conditional of may
1. If I entered the contest, I might actually win.

2. If I had entered the contest, I might actually have won.

3. If I entered the contest tomorrow, I might actually win. Unfortunately, I can’t enter it.

1. Even if I entered the contest, I might not win.

2. Even if I had entered the contest, I might not have won.

3. Even if I entered the contest tomorrow, I might not win.

might
suggestion
1. NO PRESENT FORM

2. You might have tried the cheese cake.

3. You might try the cheesecake.

1. NO PRESENT FORM

2. PAST FORM UNCOMMON

3. You might not want to eat the cheese cake. It’s very calorific.

could
might
request

(British form)

Might I have something to drink?

Might I borrow the stapler?

Requests usually refer to the near future.

 NEGATIVE FORMS UNCOMMON could,
may,
can

 

REMEMBER: “Might not” vs. “Could not”
“Might not” suggests you do not know if something happens. “Could not” suggests that it is impossible for something to happen.

Examples:

  • Jack might not have the key. Maybe he does not have the key.
  • Jack could not have the key. It is impossible that he has the key.

 

May & might sometimes have virtually the same meaning; they are used to talk about possibilities in the past, present or future. (“Could” is also sometimes used).

May is sometimes a little bit “more sure” (50% chance); whereas might expresses more doubt (maybe only a 30% chance).

May & might are used for:

  • Talking about the present or future with uncertainty
    She may be back in her office: the lecture finished ten minutes ago.
    I may go shopping tonight, I haven’t decided yet.
    England might win the World Cup, you never know.
  • Talking about the past with uncertainty
    I’m surprised he failed. I suppose he might have been ill on the day of the exam.

sometimes be used for talking about permission, but usually only in formal situations. Instead of saying May I open a window? we would say Is it all right/OK if I open a window? or Can I open a window? For example :

e.q :Students may not borrow equipment without written permission.

  • MAY
  • Talking about things that can happen in certain situations
    If the monitors are used in poorly lit places, some users may experience headaches.
    Each nurse may be responsible for up to twenty patients.
  • With a similar meaning to although
    The experiment may have been a success, but there is still a lot of work to be done. (= Although it was a success, there is still …)
  • MIGHT
  • Saying that something was possible, but did not actually happen
    You saw me standing at the bus stop! You might have stopped and given me a lift!

 

  • WOULD

“Would” is most commonly used to create conditional verb forms. It also serves as the past form of the modal verb “will.” Additionally, “would” can indicate repetition in the past.

Examples:

  • If he were an actor, he would be in adventure movies. conditional
  • I knew that she would be very successful in her career. past of “will”
  • When they first met, they would always have picnics on the beach. repetition

Using “Would” in Present, Past, and Future

Modal Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
would
conditional
1. If I were president, I would cut the cost of education.

2. If I had been president, I would have cut the cost of education.

3. If I were elected president next year, I would cut the cost of education.

1. If I were president, I would not raise taxes.

2. If I had been president, I would not have raised taxes.

3. If I were president, I would not sign the tax increase next week.

would
past of “will”
I said I would help you.

He told me he would be here before 8:00.

I said I wouldn’t help you.

He told me he would not be here before 8:00.

would
repetition in past
When I was a kid, I would always go to the beach.

When he was young, he would always do his homework.

When I was a kid, I wouldn’t go into the water by myself.

When he got older, he would never do his homework.

used to

 

  • As the past of will, for example in indirect speech
    “The next meeting will be in a month’s time” becomes
    He said the next meeting would be in a month’s time.
  • Polite requests and offers (a ‘softer’ form of will)
    Would you like another cup of tea?
    Would you give me a ring after lunch?
    I’d like the roast duck, please.
  • In conditionals, to indicate ‘distance from reality’: imagined, unreal, impossible situations
    If I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of Spring.
    It would have been better if you’d word processed your assignment.
  • After ‘wish’, to show regret or irritation over someone (or something’s) refusal or insistence on doing something (present or future)
    I wish you wouldn’t keep interrupting me.
    I wish it would snow.
  • Talking about past habits (similiar meaning to used to)
    When I was small, we would always visit relatives on Christmas Day.
  • Future in the past
    The assassination would become one of the key events of the century.

 

  • CAN & COULD

“Can” is one of the most commonly used modal verbs in English. It can be used to express ability or opportunity, to request or offer permission, and to show possibility or impossibility.

Examples:

  • I can ride a horse. ability
  • We can stay with my brother when we are in Paris. opportunity
  • She cannot stay out after 10 PM. Permission
  • Can you hand me the stapler? request
  • Any child can grow up to be president. possibility

Using “Can” in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “can” behaves in different contexts.

Modal Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
can
general ability
1. I can speak Chinese.

2. SHIFT TO “COULD”
I could speak Chinese when I was a kid.

3. SHIFT TO “BE ABLE TO”
I will be able to speak Chinese by the time I finish my course.

1. I can’t speak Swahili.

2. SHIFT TO “COULD”
I couldn’t speak Swahili.

3. SHIFT TO “BE ABLE TO”
I won’t be able to speak Swahili.

be able to
can
ability during a specific event
1. With a burst of adrenaline, people can pick up cars.

2. SHIFT TO “BE ABLE TO”
With a sudden burst of adrenaline, he was able to lift the car off the child’s leg.

3. SHIFT TO “BE ABLE TO”
With a sudden burst of adrenaline, he will be able to lift the car.

1. Even with a burst of adrenaline, people can’t pick up something that heavy.

2. SHIFT TO “BE ABLE TO”
Even the weight lifter, wasn’t able to lift the car off the child’s leg.

3. SHIFT TO “BE ABLE TO”
Even three men working together won’t be able to lift the car.

be able to
can
opportunity
1. I have some free time. I can help her now.

2. SHIFT TO “BE ABLE TO”
I had some free time yesterday. I was able to help her at that time.

3. I’ll have some free time tomorrow. I can help her then.

1. I don’t have any time. I can’t help her  now.

2. SHIFT TO “BE ABLE TO”
I didn’t have time yesterday. I wasn’t able to help her at that time.

3. I won’t have any time later. I can’t help her then.

be able to
can
permission
1. I can drive Susan’s car when she is out of town.

2. SHIFT TO “BE ALLOWED TO ”
I was allowed to drive Susan’s car while she was out of town last week.

3. I can drive Susan’s car while she is out of town next week.

1. I can’t drive Susan’s car when she is out of town.

2. SHIFT TO “BE ALLOWED TO ”
I wasn’t allowed to drive Susan’s car while she was out of town last week.

3. I can’t drive Susan’s car while she is out of town next week.

may
can
request
Can I have a glass of water?

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 know the right people.

Learning a language can be a real challenge.

This use is usually a generalization or a supposition.

It can’t cost more than a dollar or two.

You can’t be 45! I thought you were about 18 years old.

This use is usually a generalization or a supposition.

could

 

“Could” is used to express possibility or past ability as well as to make suggestions and requests. “Could” is also commonly used in conditional sentences as the conditional form of “can.”

Examples:

  • Extreme rain could cause the river to flood the city. possibility
  • Nancy could ski like a pro by the age of 11. past ability
  • You could see a movie or go out to dinner. suggestion
  • Could I use your computer to email my boss? request
  • We could go on the trip if I didn’t have to work this weekend. conditional

Using “Could” in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “could” behaves in different contexts.

Modal Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
could
possibility
1. John could be the one who stole the money.2. John could have been the one who stole the money.

3. John could go to jail for stealing the money.

1. Mary couldn’t be the one who stole the money.2. Mary couldn’t have been the one who stole the money.

3. Mary couldn’t possibly go to jail for the crime.

might,
may
could
conditional
of can
1. If I had more time, I could travel around the world.2. If I had had more time, I could have traveled around the world.

3. If I had more time this winter, I could travel around the world.

1. Even if I had more time, I couldn’t travel around the world.2. Even if I had had more time, I couldn’t have traveled around the world.

3. Even if I had more time this winter, I couldn’t travel around the world.

could
suggestion
1. NO PRESENT FORM2. You could have spent your vacation in Hawaii.

3. You could spend your vacation in Hawaii.

 NO NEGATIVE FORMS
could
past ability
I could run ten miles in my twenties.I could speak Chinese when I was a kid.

“Could” cannot be used in positive sentences in which you describe a momentary or one-time ability.

Yesterday, I could lift the couch by myself. Not Correct

I couldn’t run more than a mile in my twenties.I couldn’t speak Swahili.

“Could” can be used in negative sentences in which you describe a momentary or one-time ability.

Yesterday, I couldn’t lift the couch by myself. Correct

be able to
could
polite request
Could I have something to drink?Could I borrow your stapler?

Requests usually refer to the near future.

Couldn’t he come with us?Couldn’t you help me with this for just a second?

Requests usually refer to the near future.

can,
may,
might
REMEMBER: “Could not” vs. “Might not”
“Could not” suggests that it is impossible for something to happen. “Might not” suggests you do not know if something happens.

Examples:

  • Jack might not have the key. Maybe he does not have the key.
  • Jack could not have the key. It is impossible that he has the key.
  • Talking about ability
    Can you speak Mandarin? (present)
    She could play the piano when she was five. (past)
  • Making requests
    Can you give me a ring at about 10?
    Could you speak up a bit please? (slightly more formal, polite or ‘softer’)
  • Asking permission
    Can I ask you a question?
    Could I ask you a personal question? (more formal, polite or indirect)
  • Reported speech
    Could is used as the past of can.
    He asked me if I could pick him up after work.
  • General possibility
    You can drive when you’re 17. (present)
    Women couldn’t vote until just after the First World War.
  • Choice and opportunities
    If you want some help with your writing, you can come to classes, or you can get some 1:1 help.
    We could go to Stratford tomorrow, but the forecast’s not brilliant. (less definite)
  • Future probability

Could (NOT can) is sometimes used in the same way as might or may, often indicating something less definite.

  • When I leave university I might travel around a bit, I might do an MA or I suppose I could even get a job.
  • Present possibility
    I think you could be right you know. (NOT can)
    That can’t be the right answer, it just doesn’t make sense.
  • Past possibility
    If I’d known the lecture had been cancelled, I could have stayed in bed longer.

 

  • MUST

“Must” is most commonly used to express certainty. It can also be used to express necessity or strong recommendation, although native speakers prefer the more flexible form “have to.” “Must not” can be used to prohibit actions, but this sounds very severe; speakers prefer to use softer modal verbs such as “should not” or “ought not” to dissuade rather than prohibit.

Examples:

  • This must be the right address! certainty
  • Students must pass an entrance examination to study at this school. necessity
  • You must take some medicine for that cough. strong recommendation
  • Jenny, you must not play in the street! prohibition

Using “Must” in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “must” behaves in different contexts.

Modal Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
must
certainty
1. That must be Jerry. They said he was tall with bright red hair.

2. That must have been the right restaurant. There are no other restaurants on this street.

3. NO FUTURE FORM

1. That must not be Jerry. He is supposed to have red hair.

2. That must not have been the right restaurant. I guess there is another one around here somewhere.

3. NO FUTURE FORM

have to
must not
prohibition
You must not swim in that river. It’s full of crocodiles.

You must not forget to take your malaria medication while your are in the tropics.

Prohibition usually refer to the near future.

must
strong
recommendation

(Americans
prefer
the form
“should.”)

1. You must take some time off and get some rest.

2. SHIFT TO “SHOULD”
You should have taken some time off last week to get some rest.

3. SHIFT TO “SHOULD”
You should take some time off next week to get some rest.

1. You mustn’t drink so much. It’s not good for your health.

2. SHIFT TO “SHOULD”
You shouldn’t have drunk so much. That caused the accident.

3. SHIFT TO “SHOULD”
You shouldn’t drink at the party. You are going to be the designated driver.

should
must
necessity

(Americans
prefer
the form
“have to.”)

1. You must have a permit to enter the national park.

2. SHIFT TO “HAVE TO”
We had to have a permit to enter the park.

3. We must get a permit to enter the park next week.

1. SHIFT TO “HAVE TO”
We don’t have to get a permit to enter the national park.

2. SHIFT TO “HAVE TO”
We didn’t have to get a permit to enter the national park.

3. SHIFT TO “HAVE TO”
We won’t have to get a permit to enter the national park.

have to

 

REMEMBER: “Must not” vs. “Do not have to”
“Must not” suggests that you are prohibited from doing something. “Do not have to” suggests that someone is not required to do something.

Examples:

  • You must not eat that. It is forbidden, it is not allowed.
  • You don’t have to eat that. You can if you want to, but it is not necessary.

 

Examples here refer to British English; there is some variation in American English.

  1. Necessity and obligation

Must is often used to indicate ‘personal’ obligation; what you think you yourself or other people/things must do. If the obligation comes from outside (eg a rule or law), then have to is often (but not always) preferred:

I really must get some exercise.
People must try to be more tolerant of each other.
You musn’t look – promise?

If you own a car, you have to pay an annual road tax.

  1. Strong advice and invitations

    I think you really must make more of an effort.
    You must go and see the film – it’s brilliant.
    You must come and see me next time you’re in town.

  2. Saying you think something is certain

    This must be the place – there’s a white car parked outside.
    You must be mad.
    What a suntan! You must have had great weather.

  3. The negative is expressed by can’t:
    You’re going to sell your guitar! You can’t be serious!
    She didn’t wave – she can’t have seen me.

 

  • SHOULD

“Should” is most commonly used to make recommendations or give advice. It can also be used to express obligation as well as expectation.

Examples:

  • When you go to Berlin, you should visit the palaces in Potsdam. recommendation
  • You should focus more on your family and less on work. advice
  • I really should be in the office by 7:00 AM. obligation
  • By now, they should already be in Dubai. expectation

Using “Should” in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “should” behaves in different contexts.

Modal Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
should
recommendation, advisability
1. People with high cholesterol should eat low-fat foods.

2. Frank should have eaten low-fat foods. That might have prevented his heart attack.

3. You really should start eating better.

1. Sarah shouldn’t smoke so much. It’s not good for her health.

2. Sarah shouldn’t have smoked so much. That’s what caused her health problems.

3. Sarah shouldn’t smoke when she visits Martha next week. Martha hates when people smoke in her house.

ought to
should
obligation
I should be at work before 9:00.

We should return the video before the video rental store closes.

“Should” can also express something between recommendation and obligation. “Be supposed to” expresses a similar idea and can easily be used in the past or in negative forms.

 NO NEGATIVE FORMS be supposed to
should
expectation
1. Susan should be in New York by now.

2. Susan should have arrived in New York last week. Let’s call her and see what she is up to.

3. Susan should be in New York by next week. Her new job starts on Monday.

1. Susan shouldn’t be in New York yet.

2. Susan shouldn’t have arrived in New York until yesterday.

3. Susan shouldn’t arrive in New York until next week.

ought to,
be supposed to

 

  • Giving advice

    I think you should go for the Alfa rather than the Audi.
    You shouldn’t be drinking if you’re on antibiotics.
    You shouldn’t have ordered that chocolate dessert – you’re not going to finish it.

  • Obligation: weak form of must

    The university should provide more sports facilities.
    The equipment should be inspected regularly.

  • Deduction

    The letter should get to you tomorrow – I posted it first class.

  • Things which didn’t or may/may not have happened

    I should have renewed my TV licence last month, but I forgot.
    You shouldn’t have spent so much time on that first question.

 

  • Ought to

Ought to usually has the same meaning as should, particularly in affirmative statements in the present, Should is much more common (and easier to say!), so if you’re not sure, use should:

You should/ought to get your hair cut.

“Ought to” is used to advise or make recommendations. “Ought to” also expresses assumption or expectation as well as strong probability, often with the idea that something is deserved. “Ought not” (without “to”) is used to advise against doing something, although Americans prefer the less formal forms “should not” or “had better not.”

Examples:

  • You ought to stop smoking. recommendation
  • Jim ought to get the promotion. It is expected because he deserves it.
  • This stock ought to increase in value. probability
  • Mark ought not drink so much. advice against something (notice there is no “to”)

Using “Ought to” in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “ought to” behaves in different contexts.

Modal Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
ought to
recommendation, advice
1. Margaret ought to exercise more.

2. Margaret ought to have exercised more so she would be better prepared for the marathon.

3. Margaret ought to come to the fitness center with us tonight.

1. Margaret ought not exercise too much. It might cause injury.

2. Margaret ought not have run the marathon. She wasn’t in good shape.

3. Margaret ought not stay at home in front of the TV. She should go to the fitness center with us.

should
ought to
assumption, expectation, probability
1. She ought to have the package by now.

2. She ought to have received the package yesterday.

3. She ought to receive the package tonight.

“Ought not” is used primarily to express negative recommendations. (See above.) should

 

Notice “Ought not”
Remember that “ought to” loses the “to” in the negative. Instead of “ought not to,” we say “ought not.” “Ought not” is more commonly used in British English. Americans prefer “should not.”

 

Had Better

“Had better” is most commonly used to make recommendations. It can also be used to express desperate hope as well as warn people.

Examples:

  • You had better take your umbrella with you today. recommendation
  • That bus had better get here soon! desperate hope
  • You had better watch the way you talk to me in the future! warning

Using “Had Better” in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “had better” behaves in different contexts.

Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
had better
recommendation
1. SHIFT TO “SHOULD” OR “OUGHT TO”
People should unplug toasters before they clean them.

2. SHIFT TO “SHOULD HAVE” OR “OUGHT TO HAVE”
You should have unplugged the toaster before you tried to clean it.

3. You had better unplug the toaster before you try to clean it.

1. SHIFT TO “SHOULD” OR “OUGHT TO”
People shouldn’t clean toasters without unplugging them first.

2. SHIFT TO “SHOULD HAVE” OR “OUGHT TO HAVE”
You shouldn’t have cleaned the toaster without unplugging it first.

3. You had better not clean the toaster until you unplug it.

should,
ought to
had better
desperate hope,
warning
The movie had better end soon.

They had better be here before we start dinner.

Desperate hopes and warnings usually refer to the near future.

They had better not be late.

They had better not forget Tom’s birthday gift.

Desperate hopes and warnings usually refer to the near future.

 

“Had better” is often simply pronounced as “better” in spoken English.

Have Got To

“Have got to” is used to express necessity and obligation.

Examples:

  • Drivers have got to get a license to drive a car in the US. necessity
  • I have got to be at work by 8:30 AM. obligation

Using “Have Got to” in Present, Past, and Future

Most modal verbs behave quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “have got to” behaves in different contexts.

Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
have got to
necessity
1. People have got to be on time if they want to get a seat in the crowded theater.

2. SHIFT TO “HAVE TO”
You had to be on time if you wanted to get a seat in the crowded theater.

3. You have got to be there on time tonight if you want to get a seat in the crowded theater.

1. SHIFT TO “HAVE TO”
People don’t have to be there on time to get a seat.

2. SHIFT TO “HAVE TO”
You didn’t have to be there on time to get a seat.

3. SHIFT TO “HAVE TO”
You won’t have to be there on time to get a seat.

have to,
must
haven’t got to
future obligation
Haven’t you got to be there by 7:00?

Haven’t you got to finish that project today?

“Haven’t got to” is primarily used to ask about future obligations. It can be used in statements, but this is less common.

Don’t you have to

Have to

“Have to” is used to express certainty, necessity, and obligation.

Examples:

  • This answer has to be correct. certainty
  • The soup has to be stirred continuously to prevent burning. necessity
  • They have to leave early. obligation

Using “Have to” in Present, Past, and Future

“Have to” behaves quite irregularly in the past and the future. Study the chart below to learn how “have to” behaves in different contexts.

Use Positive Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Negative Forms
1. = Present   2. = Past   3. = Future
Also use:
have to
certainty
1. That has to be Jerry. They said he was tall with bright red hair.

2. That has to have been the right restaurant. There were no other restaurants on the street.

3. NONE

1. SHIFT TO “MUST”
That must not be Jerry. They said he has blond hair, not red hair.

2. SHIFT TO “MUST”
That must not have been the right restaurant. I guess there was another one around there somewhere.

3. NONE

must,
have got to
have to
necessity
1. She has to read four books for this literature class.

2. She had to finish the first book before the midterm.

3. She will have to finish the other books before the final exam.

1. She doesn’t have to read “Grapes of Wrath.” It’s optional reading for extra credit.

2. She didn’t have to write a critique of “The Scarlet Letter.” She had to give a presentation to her class.

3. She won’t have to take any other literature classes. American Literature 101 is the only required course.

must

 

REMEMBER: “Do not have to” vs. “Must not”
“Do not have to” suggests that someone is not required to do something. “Must not” suggests that you are prohibited from doing something.

Examples:

  • You must not eat that. It is forbidden, it is not allowed.
  • You don’t have to eat that. You can if you want to, but it is not necessary.

 

 

MODAL AUXILIARY VERBS EXERCISES

  1. I’m not really sure where Beverly is. She______________in the living room, or perhaps she’s in the backyard.

    Doug _________________the video we rented on his way to work. It was on the table, but now it’s gone.

    3. You______________the air pressure in your tires. You don’t want to get a flat tire on your trip.

    4. The computer isn’t working. It_____________during production.

    5. The package____________tomorrow afternoon. It was sent by express mail this morning.

    6. You________________the tickets for the play in advance – they sell out quickly.

    7. You can’t mean that! You____________.

    8. If Debbie hasn’t come home yet, she___________for us in the coffee shop.

    9. Mike decided not to join us for lunch. He_________at work to finish the marketing report.

    10. If I had gone with my friends to Jamaica, I__________on a white sand beach right now.

    11. If I had gone with my friends to Jamaica, I___________come to work this week.

    12. If I had gone with my friends to Jamaica, I_______________scuba diving lessons.

    13. Margaret agreed to meet us at the entrance to the theater. She_________for us when we get there.

    14. It_______________Sam who called and didn’t leave a message on the answering machine. He said he wanted to get together with us this weekend.

    15. The machine____________on by flipping this switch.

    16. She_____________. That could have been why her eyes were so red and swollen.

    17. If she was crying, she________________very upset.

    18. That painting _____________by Picasso. It could be a forgery.

    19. Your diving equipment_______________regularly if you want to keep it in good condition.

    20. If I hadn’t taken a taxi, I______________for you at the train station for hours.

Scroll Down for the Answer !

  1. might be sitting
  2. must have returned
  3. ought to check
  4. must have been damaged
  5. should be delivered
  6. have to book
  7. have got to be joking.
  8. must still be waiting
  9. had to stay
  10. would be lying
  11. would not have had to
  12. could have taken
  13. ought to be waiting
  14. might have been
  15. can be turned
  16. might have been crying
  17. must have been
  18. might not have been painted
  19. must be cleaned
  20. might have been waiting

 

Retrieve on Thursday, 26 November 2015

http://library.bcu.ac.uk/learner/Grammar%20Guides/3.07%20Modals.htm#Top

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/modalforms.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/can.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/could.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/shall.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/should.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/may.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/might.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/hadbetter.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/havegotto.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/oughtto.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/will.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/would.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/must.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/haveto.html

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/interactivemodal7.htm

 

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