Level: beginner

The modal verbs are: 



We use modals to show if we believe something is certain, possible or impossible:

My keys must be in the car.
It might rain tomorrow.
That can't be Peter's coat. It's too small.

We also use them to do things like talk about ability, ask permission, and make requests and offers:

I can't swim.
May I ask a question?
Could I have some tea, please?
Would you like some help?

Modal verbs




Sir, I'd like to know more about should. Is it the same as "ought to"?
Can "should" be in continuous form?
please give me example.

Hi eribarongan,
I've just answered your other question about 'should' on another page and provided several links for you.  The pages following this one (click 'next' above) should provide you with the information you need, but in general 'ought to' and 'should' are very similar in meaning, though 'ought to' is much less common in modern English.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team


thank you 


sentence 1: 'You must not hit your sister again! Do you understand?'
sentence 2: 'This is the non-smoking section. You can't smoke here.'

Can you explain to me the use of 'must' in sentence no.1 and the use of can't in the sentence no.2? I often get confused with the use of modal verb 'must'.


Hi Theresa Andrew,

Both sentences describe things that are not allowed (prohibition), so the meaning is quite similar. The different is that 'must' in the first sentence suggests a more personal prohibition, while 'can't' in the second sentence suggests a rule or law which is not the speaker's decision. However, in many examples these overlap: something is prohibited both because the speaker thinks it is wrong and because it is illegal or against the rules, as in both sentences above. That is why either of the two modal verbs can often be used.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Thank you for the explanation. My only concern is during APTIS test, both can be given as options unless I exactly know the use of the modal verbs, it's going to be tough in choosing the best answer. In the recent APTIS mock test, I had this confusion between the use of modal verb must with other verbs such as should and can't. I've tried many questions pertaining this modal verb even so I still make mistakes in answering the questions. Can you help me on how to overcome this confusion in answering exam oriented questions?


Hi Theresa Andrew,

I appreciate the point you're making. However, it sounds like the issue is related to the specific context in the test and it's hard for me to address these without seeing the examples. Perhaps you could post the particular example(s) you have in mind and I'll try to explain them for you.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team



1. It's very valuable. You (should, must) be very careful with it.
2. I (must, should) remember to inform him about the delay.
3. You (must, should) not drink the tap water. It's not safe.
4. If it broke the day after you bought it, you (should, have got to) take it back to the shop.
5. Of course I'm worried. I (must, have got to) be at the airport in half an hour, and look at the traffic.

Can you help me to understand the use of modal verbs in these sentences? I answered all these questions wrongly.


what is the difference between these two sentences, did you do your homework and have you done your homework?