Level: intermediate

We can use a modal verb with have and a past participle:

Subject Modal have Past participle  
They will have arrived by now.
You might have seen the film.
Jack and Jill would have been late.

We use a modal verb with have:

  • to refer back from the present:

It's nearly eight o'clock. They will have arrived by now.

  • to refer back from a point of time in the past:

We were very worried. We thought someone might have taken the car.

  • to refer back from a point of time in the future:

We won't eat until they arrive. They might not have had supper.

  • to refer to past time:

You should have helped her when she asked.
They might have got lost. Nobody knows where they are.

Modal verbs with have 1


Modal verbs with have 2




Hello teachers. Some time ago i asked and i have obtained the answer. Now i have sentence: 'I knew I should do something' by the context, it action was in the past. Here the writer also wants to make it more real for us by taking us in the past and show us that action from there? As if we are with that person?

Hello rewand,

Yes, that's correct – it's as if the writer if sharing their thoughts with us from that time so that we are pulled into the story.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, i hope i don't put you to much work with my several questions.Regarding the explanation above i'd like to finally to understand the use of modal verbs when i create a clause in the past it follows: Jane said that she would back me up if i complaned about (with) our headmaster.When i traslate in italian i can have two meanings :one in the future and othe one in the past...because i not might say as it follows: jane said that she would have backed me up if i'd complained about (with) our headmaster didn't she?
thank you in advance.

Thanks man.

could you please tell me whether we can use all perfect modals to indicate an action that finishes before another action in future-future perfect-or not?
for example:
1.by next year,i will have finished my study.
2.by next year,i might/may have finished my study.
3.by next year,i must have finished ...
4.by next year,i should have finished ...
by next year, i could/can have finished ..
if yes,please tell me the difference between could and can and the difference between may and might for showing future perfect.

best regards

Hello misam,

Sentences 1, 2 and 4 are grammatical but the others are not. Both 'may have finished' and 'might have finished' mean the same thing in this context – there is no difference between them. The difference between 'will have finished' and 'may/might have finished' is that 'may/might' indicate more uncertainty than 'will'. Have you seen our can, could and could have page? There you can see more about 'could have'; the form 'can have' is not used.

I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, please ask us. The more specific your question is, the more likely we are to be able to help you.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,

I really liked your expression above "The more specific your question is, the more likely we are to be able to help you.", and I was wondering, would be there any difference if I said "we are able to help you" instead?

Thanks in advance, greetings.

Hi Hopefinder,

Yes, that would mean essentially the same thing, though really I would say 'the more likely we will be able to help you' or 'the more likely it is that we are able to help you' or my original phrasing.

Glad you like it!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, would this third conditional phrase be correct? 'If the dogs hadn't barked, we couldn't have heard the burglars.' Or is it necessary to use 'wouldn't have' instead of 'couldn't have'. When is it possible to use could have in the third conditional? Thanks.

Hi rayres,

That sentence is perfectly fine.  A range of modal verbs can be used in the result clause of conditional sentences, each with their usual meanings:

'If the dogs had barked, we should have heard the burglars (but we didn't, which was strange so perhaps they didn't bark after all).

'If the dogs hadn't barked, we might not have heard the burglars (but it's possible that we would have heard them anyway).

In your sentnece, the modal 'would have' describes what we think was likely or certain to happen; the modal 'could have' describes possibility (or a lack of it).

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.  You can find more information on this construction here.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team