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MODAL VERBS

C É SAR T E N ORI O TORO – EN GLI SH FOR GEN ERAL AN D


ACADEMIC PURPOSES II
MODAL VERBS

• We use modal verbs to show if we believe something is certain,


probable or possible (or not). We also use modals to do things like
talking about ability, asking permission making requests and offers,
and so on.
• The modal verbs are
can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will and would.
POSSIBILITY:

• We use the modals could, might and may to show that something is possible in the
future, but not certain:
They might come later. (= Perhaps/Maybe they will come later.)
They may come by car. (= Perhaps/Maybe they will come by car.)
If we don’t hurry we could be late. (= Perhaps/Maybe we will be late)

• We use the modal can to make general statements about what is possible:
It can be very cold in winter. (= It is sometimes very cold in winter)
You can easily lose your way in the dark. (= People often lose their way in the dark)
MAY

• We use MAY to ask for permission.


e.g. May I see the letter? May I take a photo?
• We use MAY to give permission.
e.g.You may use the telephone.
• MAY is formal and is not often used in speech.
• We use MAY to say that something is possible.
• We can use MAY for the present or the future.
• After MAY, we can use a continous form (be + ing-form).
e.g. The detective may be watching us (perhaps he is watching us).
CAN AND CAN’T

• We use CAN to say that something is possible: that someone has an ability or an opportunity.
• E.g. Natasha can play the piano / John can participate in the contest.
• We use CAN to ask for permission or to give permission. To refuse permission we use
CAN’T.
PROBABILITY:

• We use the modal must to show we are sure something to be true and we have reasons for
our belief:
It’s getting dark. It must be quite late.
You haven’t eaten all day.You must be hungry.

• We use the modal should to suggest that something is true or will be true in the future, and
to show you have reasons for your suggestion:
Ask Miranda. She should know.
It's nearly six o'clock. They should arrive soon.
MUST
• We use MUST when we realize that something is certainly true.
e.g. She isn’t answering the phone. She must be out.
Andrew isn’t here. He must be working in the library.

• We use MUST to say that something is necessary.


e.g.You will be leaving college soon.You must think about
your future.

• We use MUST when the speaker feels that something is


necessary. e.g.You must exercise. / We must be quiet
COULD AND COULDN’T

• We use COULD for ability or opportunity in the past.


e.g. Natasha could play the piano when she was four.
In those days we had a car, so we could travel very easily.

• We use COULD to ask for permission.


SHOULD
• We use SHOULD to say wht is the best thing or the right thing to do.
e.g.You are not very well. Perhaps you should see a doctor.
People should exercise regularly.
• We can also use SHOULD in questions to ask for advice.
e.g. Where sohuld I put this picture?
• After SHOULD we can use a continuous form (be + ing-form).
e.g. It is late. I should be cooking the dinner.
• We use SHOULD to ask for advice.
e.g. I am in trouble. What should I do?
HAVE TO

• We use HAVE TO to say that something is necessary.


e.g. I have an exam at the university. I have to study late tonight.
• HAVE TO expresses necessity. We use HAVE TO when the situation makes something
necessary.
e.g. I have to exercise (the doctor told me). We have to be quiet (that’s the rule). I have to do
homework (I need to practice).
MIGHT
• We use MIGHT to say that something is possible. We can use it for the present or the future.
e.g. It might be a bomb (perhaps it is a bomb). I might go to the disco tomorrow ( perhaps I will
go to the disco ).
• After MIGHT we can use a continuous form (be + ing-form).
e.g. The detective might be watching us (perhaps he is watching us).
COMPLETE THE SENTENCES WITH ONE
OF THE TWO CHOICES.
• 1. She ___________ be at work, she always works at this time. (must / could)
• 2. Speak up, I ___________ hear you! (can’t / couldn’t)
• 3. I ___________ hear a word he said. (can’t / couldn’t)
• 4 Andrew ___________ call his wife urgently. (must / shouldn’t)
• 5. Thank you for calling Zee Company, how ___________ I help you? (can’t /
may)
• 6. Emma ____ go out tonight, her parents said no. (can’t / may).