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Modals: Uses (1)

Ability To know how to

o Can: Can you drive? Yes, I learnt three years ago. To be capable of
o Could: I could’t speak German before staying a year there. To be able to
o Be able to: Our baby will be able to walk in a few months

Obligation: It’s compulsory

o Must(Obligación impuesta por otra persona) It’s imperative
Officer to soldier:”You must leave this floor completely clean) You are required
o Have to (Obligación personal, rutinas) You are obligated
I have to sleep less and study more.
I have to get up at seven everyday.
Prohibition: you are not allowed
o Musn’t: You must not smoke in the whole building. It’s forbidden
o Can’t: (Imposibilidad)
You can’t bathe in these waters because there are sharks.
Posibility, Can= It’s possible
o Can: Posibilidad segura porque las circunstancias lo permiten. May= perhaps
You can ski on these hills, there’s plenty of snow.
o May: quizá sí, quizá no…
John may come tonight. (quizá venga)
o Might: Es la incertidumbre total, la improbabilidad.
He might come tonight. (Es improbable)
Deduction: I’m sure that
o Must: Deducción en afirmativa.
You must be tired after your long journey
o Can’t: Deducción negative
That can’t be Sue, she’s in Brazil.

Rewrite these sentences using modal auxiliaries:

1. Perhaps he will understand it.

2. Perhaps scientist will control the world’s climate.

3. They are not able to remember it.

4. They are not allowed to use their mother tongue at school.

5. He was able to swim for hours.

6. They are obliged to wear uniform.

7. He is able to listen to two conversations at a time.

8. It’s possible they are already there.

9. Perhaps they will phone tonight.

10. I’m sure he’s German.

11. I’m sure he doesn’t write to her. He doesn’t like her.

12. It’s forbidden to make copies without permission.

13. I’m sure the cat is in the house somewhere.

14. John is not allowed to come in here.

15. I’m sure that Helen feels really lonely.

16. You’re not allowed to park here.

17. I’m sure that Brenda isn’t over thirty.

18. Mary knows how to stand on her head.

19. It is imperative for you to finish the work on time.

20. It is forbidden to smoke in this classroom.

21. There is a slight possibility for them to get the scholarship.

22. It is very probable that she is her girlfriend.

23. My sister knows how to windsurf.

24. Nobody was able to guess it.

25. You are prohibited from parking here.

26. The secretary is capable of typing very fast.

27. We are sure Alan is at home.

28. There is a slight chance that it will rain this evening.

29. It is impossible for me to make out what this letter says.

EXERCISES. Complete the sentences with the right modal verb.

1. Jack was an excellent tennis player. He _________________ beat anybody.

2. You’ve been travelling all day. You _______________ be tired.

3. I ____________ get up early tomorrow. There are a lot of things I want to do.

4. George has travelled a lot. He ________________ speak five languages.

5. I can’t find my umbrella. It ____________ be in the car.

6. I haven’t decided yet where to go on holidays. I __________ go to Ireland.

7. Carol ____________ get very bored in her job. She does the same thing every day.

8. Sandra _________________ drive because she hasn’t got a car.

9. Ann ______________ not come to the party. She’s sick.

10. I haven’t phone Ann for days. I ________________ phone her tonight.

11. You can’t turn right here. You ___________ turn left.

12. This car ______________ be John’s. He is working.

13. Perhaps Margaret works today . She is not at home. She ____________ be working.

14. My grandmother loved music. She _____________ play the piano.

15. I can’t find George. I wonder where he is. He ____________ be in her mother’s house.

16. George can’t come out with us this evening. He ____________ to work.

17. It’s later than I thought. I ______________ go now.

18. Don’t tell anybody what I said. You ________________ keep it secret.

19. My eyesight isn’t very good. I _________________wear glasses for reading.

20. If you need help, Alan ___________ help you, perhaps.

21. Kate doesn’t answer the phone. She ________________ be sleeping.

Modals: Uses (2)
Ability To know how to
Could: I could’t speak German before staying a year there. To be capable of
To be able to
Obligation (must, have to): It’s compulsory
Had to: I had to go to hospital due to an earache. It’s imperative
Have you ever had to go to hospital? You are required
You are obligated
Prohibition (musn’t, can’t):
No se puede dar una orden en pasado
Posibility, May= perhaps
May have pp: I wonder why Kay didn’t answer the phone.
She may have been asleep.
Might have pp: I was surprised that Sarah wasn’t at the
meeting. She might not have known about it.
Deduction (must, can’t): I’m sure that
Must have pp: Nobody answered the phone, they must
have gone out. (Certeza de que algo es verdad)
Can’t have pp: Jane walked past me without speaking.
She can’t have seen me.

1. May _______________ (sing) opera in any language when she was 18.

2. Yesterday I _______________ (get up) early because I had a lot of things to do.

3. I can’t find my bag anywhere. Perhaps, I _____________________ (leave) it in the shop.

4. Tom’s car was parked at her house. He _________________ (spend) the afternoon with her.

5. He __________________ (not/run) very fast when he was a child.

6. I __________________ (buy) the tickets yesterday because it was the last day I could do it.

7. She is late. She ____________________ (taken) the wrong bus, perhaps.

8. Ron arrived late. He _________________ in a traffic jam. I’ve heard it in the news.
Modals: Uses (3)
Absence of obligation: No tener que
o Needn’t: We needn’t hurry
o Don’t need to: We don’t need to hurry.
o Needn’t have pp: We needn’t have hurried. We had plenty
of time.
o Didn’t need to: We didn’t need to hurry. We had plenty of
Advice, opinion: Debería
o Should: You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the
o Ought to: Jack ought not to go to bed so late.

(No tiene pasado porque no se puede dar consejos en pasado)

Criticism or regret after an event: Debería haber
o Should have pp: She shouldn’t have listened to our

Things which were possible but did not happen: Podría haber… pero no lo hice o
o Could have pp: You could have asked me before buying it. no ocurrió por algún motivo.

1. You can come with me if you like, but you __________________ (come) if you don’t want to.

2. He ______________________ (take) the umbrella because it didn’t rain.

3. You look tired. You _____________________ (go) to bed.

4. You went to bed very late last night. You _______________________ (go) to bed earlier.

5. Why didn’t Liz apply for the job? She _______________________ (get) it.

6. I can manage the shopping alone. You _________________ (come) with me.

7. I bought some eggs but when I came back home, I found that I had already plenty of eggs. So I

________________________________ (buy) them.

8. It’s 10 in the morning, the children ________________ (be) at school now, they

________________________ (not/be/ play) football.

9. I’m feeling ill. I think I ate too much. I _____________________ (not/ eat) so much.

10. A: Did you go to the concert last night? B: No, we _______________ (go) but we decided not to.

1. Is it necessary for me to bring my passport?

Do __________________________________________________________________?

2. I am sure my purse is in the house somewhere.

The purse _____________________________________________________________

3. It is very inconvenient if you can’t drive.

It’s very inconvenient ____________________________________________________

4. I am sure that John is not the thief.

John __________________________________________________________________

5. You are not allowed to park here.


6. It would be a good idea if Harry took a holiday.

Harry _________________________________________________________________

7. What would you advise me to do?


8. You needn’t come with me if you don’t want to.


9. It’s possible for anyone to break into this house.


10. The dentist will see you soon. I don’t think he’ll be long.



1. It wasn’t necessary for me to go out after all.

I _______________________________________________________________________

2. There was a plan for Jack to be manager, but he left.

3. It was a mistake for you to buy this car.


4. I don’t think that Sally enjoyed her holiday.


5. It’s possible that Bill saw me.

Bill _____________________________________________________________________

6. I’m sure that Karen was a beautiful baby.

Karen ___________________________________________________________________

7. Perhaps Alan didn’t mean what he said.

Alan ____________________________________________________________________

8. I think you were wrong to sell your bike.

You _____________________________________________________________________

9. I’m sure that David took your books by mistake.


10. It was a mistake to park outside the police station.



1. It was unnecessary for you to clean the floor.


2. I’m sure that Liz hasn’t met Harry before.


3. Ann possibly hasn’t left yet.


4. I’m sure they haven’t eaten all the food. It’s not possible.


5. Jack is supposed to have arrived half an hour ago.


6. Perhaps Pam and Tim decided not to come.


7. I think it was the cat that took the fish from the table.


8. It was sunny so it was not necessary to wear raincoats.


9. There was a “DANGER” signal. Didn’t you read it?

You __________________________________________________________________

10. It wasn’t advisable for you to cross the street like that.

You __________________________________________________________________