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  • Фото автораNataliia Biliaieva

Modal verbs

Оновлено: 11 жовт. 2023 р.

Modal verbs are a type of auxiliary verb (also known as helping verbs) in English. They are used to modify the main verb in a sentence to indicate the speaker's attitude towards the action being described.

The nine modal verbs in English are:

1. Can

2. Could

3. May

4. Might

5. Will

6. Would

7. Shall

8. Should

9. Must

Modal verbs are a specific category of verbs in the English language that express attitudes, abilities, possibilities, obligations, and permissions. They are used to modify the meaning of the main verb in a sentence. Here's some information about modal verbs:

  1. Common modal verbs: The most commonly used modal verbs in English are "can," "could," "may," "might," "shall," "should," "will," "would," "must," "ought to," and "need to."

  2. Expressing ability: Modal verbs like "can" and "could" are used to express the ability or capacity to do something. For example, "I can swim" means "I am able to swim."

  3. Expressing possibility: Modal verbs such as "may," "might," and "could" are used to indicate the possibility or likelihood of something happening. For instance, "It may rain tomorrow" suggests that there is a chance of rain.

  4. Expressing obligation and necessity: Modal verbs like "must" and "should" convey obligations or requirements. "You must study for the exam" means that studying is necessary, while "You should exercise regularly" suggests that exercise is recommended but not mandatory.

  5. Expressing permission: Modal verbs such as "can," "could," and "may" can be used to grant or seek permission. For example, "Can I borrow your pen?" asks for permission to borrow the pen.

  6. Expressing advice and suggestion: Modal verbs like "should" and "ought to" are used to offer advice or make suggestions. "You should go to the doctor" suggests that going to the doctor is recommended.

  7. Expressing certainty: Modal verbs such as "must" and "will" express certainty or high probability. For instance, "He must be at home" indicates a strong belief that he is indeed at home.

Modal verbs have unique properties, such as not requiring an auxiliary verb in questions or negative sentences. They also influence verb forms and follow certain patterns in usage.

It's important to note that modal verbs do not have an "-s" form for the third-person singular in the present tense, and they are generally followed by the base form of the main verb.

Understanding and correctly using modal verbs can significantly enhance your ability to express various attitudes, abilities, and obligations in English.

The modal verb "should"

is used to express various meanings and functions, such as giving advice, making suggestions, expressing obligation or duty, and indicating probability or expectation. Here are some common ways to use "should" in sentences:

​Giving advice or making recommendations

  • You should eat more vegetables for a healthy diet.

  • I think you should go to bed early to get enough rest.

  • You should eat more vegetables for a healthy diet.

  • I think you should go to bed early to get enough rest.

  • Students should complete their homework on time.

  • We should respect the environment and recycle our waste.

  • She's been studying all day, so she should do well on the exam.

  • The package was sent last week, so it should arrive soon.

  • Should I bring anything to the party?

  • Should we start the meeting now?

  • If it rains, you should take an umbrella.

  • You should call the doctor if you don't feel better.

When using "should," it is important to note that it is followed by the base form of the verb (infinitive form without "to"). Also, "should" does not change its form based on the subject; it remains the same for all pronouns.

Remember that the context and intended meaning of your sentence will determine the appropriate use of "should" in a particular situation.

"should" discussing the past

The modal verb "should" is typically used to talk about present and future situations, expressing advice, obligation, or expectation. However, when discussing the past, we can still use "should" in a few different ways:

1. Expressing regret or criticism about past actions:

  • He should have studied more for the exam. (He didn't study enough, and it's regrettable now.)

  • They should have listened to the warnings. (They didn't listen, and it's a criticism of their past behavior.)

2. Making assumptions or giving opinions about past events:

  • She should have arrived home by now. (I assume she arrived home based on the expected time.)

  • It should have been a great movie. (I have an opinion that the movie was likely enjoyable.)

3. Indicating unrealized expectations or missed opportunities in the past:

  • We should have gone on vacation last month. (We missed the opportunity to go on vacation in the past.)

  • He should have won the race, but he tripped and fell. (He was expected to win, but he didn't due to the fall.)

4. Speculating about past events or possibilities:

  • She should have been at the party. (Speculating that she was likely present at the party.)

  • The train should have left at 8 am. (Speculating about the scheduled departure time.)

When using "should" in the past, we pair it with the perfect infinitive form ("have" + past participle). It's important to note that "should have" refers to actions that were expected or recommended in the past but did not occur or were not fulfilled.

Downloadable PDF tables + exercises

PDF Burrito & Jack
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Modals of deduction / speculation

really certain

will, must, can’t

very likely




might, may, could

Once upon a time, there was a man named Jack who ate a burrito before bed. The next morning, he woke up feeling sick and realized he shouldn't have eaten that burrito. He thought to himself, "I should have known better than to eat a spicy burrito before bed."

Later that day, Jack went to the doctor because he felt even worse. The doctor asked him, "Did you eat something unusual last night?"

Jack replied, "I ate a burrito before bed."

The doctor said, "You shouldn't have done that. You should have known it would make you sick."

Jack thought to himself, "I shouldn't have eaten that burrito. I should have listened to my mom when she told me not to eat spicy food before bed."

From that day on, Jack learned his lesson and never ate a burrito before bed again. The end.

Moral of the story: Past modals are used to express regret, advice, and speculation about past events. So, the next time you're thinking about eating something spicy before bed, remember Jack's story and use past modals to express what you should have done instead!

Exercise 1: Fill in the blanks with the appropriate modal verb (can, could, may, might, must, should, would) to complete the sentences:

  1. I __________ speak three languages fluently.

  2. ________ you please pass me the salt?

  3. She ________ be at work right now.

  4. ________ you like a cup of tea?

  5. We ________ go to the concert last night, but we had other plans.

  6. You ________ eat your vegetables for good health.

  7. ________ I ask you a question?

Exercise 2: Rewrite the following sentences using a suitable modal verb:

  1. It is possible that he will arrive late. (Use "might")

  2. I have the ability to solve this problem. (Use "can")

  3. It is necessary for you to finish your homework. (Use "must")

  4. It is advisable to read the instructions carefully. (Use "should")

Exercise 3: Create your own sentences using modal verbs to express different meanings such as ability, possibility, necessity, advice, etc. Answers: Exercise 1:

  1. can

  2. Could

  3. may

  4. Would

  5. could

  6. should

  7. May

Exercise 2:

  1. He might arrive late.

  2. I can solve this problem.

  3. You must finish your homework.

  4. You should read the instructions carefully.

Feel free to practice with these exercises and let me know if you have any questions or need further assistance!

Exercise 3: Choose the correct modal verb to complete each sentence:

  1. I _______ swim when I was five years old. a) can b) could c) will

  2. You _______ eat all your vegetables for good health. a) should b) must c) would

  3. He _______ be at the office right now. a) may b) might c) can

  4. _______ you please open the window? It's hot in here. a) Will b) Could c) Shall

  5. We _______ go to the concert last night, but we decided to stay home. a) might b) should c) would

Exercise 4: Rewrite the following sentences using a suitable modal verb:

  1. It is important to exercise regularly. (Use "should")

  2. It is possible that they will win the game. (Use "may")

  3. It is not necessary for you to bring your laptop. (Use "don't have to")

Exercise 3: Create your own sentences using modal verbs to express different meanings such as ability, possibility, necessity, advice, etc. Answers: Exercise 3:

  1. b) could

  2. a) should

  3. a) may

  4. b) Could

  5. a) might

Exercise 4:

  1. You should exercise regularly.

  2. They may win the game.

  3. You don't have to bring your laptop.

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Conditional verbs in English

Conditional verbs in English are used to express actions or situations that are dependent on a certain condition. They indicate what would happen or could have happened under different circumstances.


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