What are Modal Verbs?
Modal verbs are a type of auxiliary verb, like DO, BE and HAVE. However, they differ in that regular auxiliaries only express the idea of time and not meaning; or in the case of DO, cannot be translated into Spanish. There are also some rules to follow when using Modal verbs.
Modal verbs include CAN, COULD, WILL, WOULD, SHALL, MAY, MIGHT, MUST, SHOULD and OUGHT TO.
Rules of Modal verbs:
|1. The conjugation is the same for all persons.||Example: I can, you can, he can, etc.
Not: he cans
|2. They are not used with the auxiliary Do.||Example: Can you run?
Not: Do you can run?
|3. They are followed by the infinitive without TO.||Example: I must take my medicine.
(Exception: Ought to)
|4. They can be made negative by adding not or the contraction –n’t.||Example: I can’t play the piano.
(Exception: may not cannot be contracted)
Note: HAVE TO and NEED TO are half modals and don´t follow the same rules as full modals, but they do have meaning.
Rules of half modals
|1. The conjugation changes for third person singular.||Example: I have to, he has to, I need to, heneeds to|
|2. The emphatic DO may be used||Example: I do need to go, can’t you understand that?|
|3. They are followed by TO and the infinitive. (Except the negative of need to)||Example: I have to wear a uniform. He needn’t wear a uniform.|
|4. The negative of have to cannot be made with a contraction.||Example: I don’t have to go.
Not: I haven’t to go.
List of meanings and uses Modals
As mentioned above, Modal verbs and Half Modals express meaning. Here is a list of Modals and Half Modals with their meanings and uses.
|1. I can speak English.
2. Can I borrow your pen.
3. Can you open the window?
4. I can come next Monday.
1. past ability
2. polite request
3. permission in Reported Speech
5. Second Conditional
|1. Could run fast when I was a child.
2. Could you open the window, please?
3. Mary said she could go out tonight.
4. Where’s Mary? I don’t know, she could be in her office.
5. If it didn’t rain, we could go to the park.
– spontaneous decisions
5. First conditional
|1. He will definitely come to the party
2a. I will call Mary before she leaves.
2b. I think the economy will get better soon.
3. I will return your money tomorrow.
4. You will do as I tell you.
5. If it stops raining we will play football.
1. Polite offers
3. Habits in the past
|1. Would you like some cheese?
2. If I had a car I would change my job.
3. On Sundays we would go to the park to play football.
3. To ask for advice
4. Polite offers
5. To ask for instructions
|1. I shall visit Mary next week.
2. I shall help you with your homework.
3. Shall I invite Jim to the party?
4. Shall I open the window for you?
5. Where shall I put this box?
6. You shall go there immediately
3. Polite request
4. Polite offers
|1. I may be able to take a day off.
2. May I use your phone?
3. May I have some more cake, please?
4. May I help you?
|1. We might be able to join you in London next week.|
|1. You should read this book, it’s great.
2. Perhaps we should consider a different option.
3. They should be at home by now.
4. You should see a doctor at once
1. Moral obligation
|1. You ought to do as you are told.
2. You ought to see the Picasso museum.
3. They ought to be home by now.
|1. You must wear protective glasses in the lab.
2. I must take my medicine.
3. They left at 8 o’clock, so they must be at home by now.
4. You must stay at my house when you come to the city.
|1. I have to wear safety goggles in the lab.|
|1. I need to take my medicine with my breakfast.|
|Example: Mr. Simpson can’t be dead, I saw him only 5 minutes ago.|
|Example: You mustn‘t smoke in a hospital.|
|DON’T HAVE TO
|Example: You don’t have to go to the party if you don’t want to.|
Exercises with Modal Verbs
Exercise 1. Write the correct modal verb. Note that in some cases there is more than one correct answer.
Martha was looking out of the window when she noticed the clouds in the sky. “Wow,” she called, “it seems like it rain.”
Martha: Philip! I think you take the umbrella with you.
Philip: Oh no… The umbrella is too big! I not carry it by myself. I rather leave it at home.
Martha: What are you talking about? You get wet for sure!
Philip: You know, Martha, people get wet. It’s not the end of the world. I just go without it?
Martha: No, you not. Janet told her husband that he leave without his umbrella and look what happen to him.
Philip: What happened to him?
Martha: you please stop talking and take your umbrella with you?
Philip: There aren’t that many clouds in the sky. It not rain after all.
Martha: You be joking.
Philip: Well, a man do what a man do. I take the umbrella. I take anything else?
Martha: If I were you I be happy to take an umbrella.
Philip: I like to be happy, but it’s too heavy!
Exercise 2. Find the word that should not be in the sentence and write it in the blank !
|You should have to told him that.|
|Would you have mind helping me with this|
|We were been able to book a hotel room through the travel agency.|
|Can you please to pass the salt ?|
|He might have had left his wallet at him.|
|You are not allowed it to enter that part of the building.|
|Sonia should be know about his refusal to cooperate|
|They needn’t to have spent so much money on redecorating the house.|
|He may be is waiting for the bus.|
|Mr Beaumont is to will arrive tomorrow at 9 o’clock.|
|Ellen is likely that to return sooner than expected.|
|How about we calling him to find out if he has been invited to?|
|That can’t to have been Richard Gere !|
|You should to go now.|
|Might does he still be waiting for us ?|
|She will has to make an appointment to see the doctor.|
|He has had got to borrow money twice already this month.|
|You mustn’t to let anyone know about our agreement-|
|She may have had given you the wrong address.|
|Would you mind if my asking you a person question ?|
Exercise 3. QUIZ
1. You —- the locksmith to open the door for you last night before you tried to open the door yourself.
ought to have called
have had to call
had better call
2. Scientists have found that people who are active at a moderate level experience a long list of health benefits and that physical activity —- vigorous.
has to be
is not used to being
had better be
3. As well as being a popular tourist site, Trafalgar Square offers some of the most famous views in the country, —-?
4. I —- an office but I chose to work from home because everything I need is here.
could have rented
must have rented
needn’t have rented
5. Climbers survive in this so-called death zone above eight thousand meters because they spend several months climbing to higher points on the mountain to —- in those conditions.
used to live
have to live
would rather live
get used to living
had better live
6. You —- down to about 30 kilometers an hour when you are driving through a school zone between dawn and dusk.
should have slowed
had to slow
were supposed to live
may have slowed
7. Most advanced aircraft now —- at supersonic speeds.
could have fly
shouldn’t have fly
are able to fly
had to fly
were supposed to fly
8. When an emergency vehicle is approaching with its lights and siren on, drivers —- pull over and stop to get out of the way.
needn’t have moved
can’t have moved
didn’t need to move
must have moved
9. My girlfriend said I —- her anything for her birthday, but I think I —- her some flowers at least or a nice bottle of wine.
didn’t need to buy / should buy
had to buy / can’t have bought
should have bought / must buy
don’t need to buy / don’t have to buy
may not buy / may have bought
10. The prisoner —- this way; there are no footprints at all.
may have escaped
needn’t have escaped
could have escaped
had to escape
can’t have escaped