The modal verbs are:

can could
may might
shall should
will would
must  

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.
 

Section: 

Comments

" I wish we had a garden for the kids to play in". If I rewrite this sentence using so that, which modal verb ( can or could) is the correct one to use please? Eg: I wish we had a garden so that the kids CAN ( or could ?) play in . The reason I use Can is because it is the wish at the present and the speaker is talking about the current situation.

However, if the original sentence is : I wish we had HAD a garden....., then COULD should be used as this is the wish about the past and the speaker is talking about the past event. Kindly let me know if I am correct.

Also could you please explain the different uses of I wish or I wished. I.e, does it affect the meaning of the sentence if either is used. E.g I wish I knew her name . vs. I wished I knew her name.

Thank you.

Hello Widescreen,

The verbs in the sentence should agree and since 'wish' is followed by 'had' the rest of the conclusions should be in agreement. Therefore the correct form here is 'could' to describe an imaginary present:

I wish we had a garden so that the kids could play in it.

If the sentence used 'had had' then the correct form would be 'could have', as it refers to an imaginary past:

I wish we had had a garden so that the kids could have played in it.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

some reference books say that "can't have+P.P" and "couldn't have +P.P" are the only negative forms of "must have+P.P"
However, Understanding and Using English Grammar, Third Edition, page 181 says that we can use "must not have+P.P" to express deduction about the past.
What do you think" thank you.

Hello Mr.Ahmed Imam,

I'm afraid we don't comment on what other websites or books say. I'd suggest you look around at several sources (for example, the Cambridge Dictionary has quite a lot on grammar, including this page on 'must'). What you find repeated in several sources is more likely to be accurate than what you find only rarely.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear LearnEnglish Team,

All over the Internet there are tons of quite controversial info about the 'real' usage of the modal 'must'. In some sources they assure it is used to express obligation and prohibition only in written speech (signs, rules) but almost never orally. The native speakers say 'must' only when they make a kind of predictions, and if you say something like 'You must go to bed early today. Tomorrow is going to be very busy', it will sound totally unnatural, even strange.
But as an EFL teacher I always deal with different textbooks and grammar books while I'm getting ready for my classes, and I rather often come across like illustrations for texts and exercises
e.g. The policewoman says 'You must not park here' (not 'You can't park here' as it is claimed)
The doctor says to a child 'You must take this pill' (not 'You have to take it').
So I'm wondering if 'must' and 'must not' can be used in spoken English nevetherless to emphasize some shade of meaning (sort of superiority?) or those textbooks are just way too far from real spoken English?

Sincerely,
Elena

Hello Elena,

We do not comment on what other sites may say, but I will say that it is certainly not the case that 'must' is not used in spoken English. It is certainly less common than 'have to' and does, as you say, contain some suggestion of superiority or personal authority. However, I would not overemphasise this. The context and the tone of voice used are key elements, and not just the particular verb form used.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,

Thanks a lot for your answer! So you'll hear 'You can't park here' from the policeman and 'You have to take it' from the doctor much more often than 'You must not park here' and 'You must take it'. Did I get that right?

I also quite often see 'have to' in such sentences as 'You don't have to drink all the juice' or 'Do you have to crank your player that loud?' (both like indirect prohibition) I've been thinking why 'should' is not used in these cases. Is there any subtle difference between 'have to' and 'should' in such sentences, or none?

Thanks in advance,

Elena

Hello Elena,

I would agree that 'must' is less likely in those sentences, with the caveat that doctors use the form 'really must' as a way of emphasising the advice they are giving:

You really must cut down on the amount of fatty food you eat.

The use of 'have to' in your other examples is quite a common one. The basic meaning is 'necessary' but the context is important here. For example, the second example has a sarcastic tone - the speaker clearly knows that it is not necessary and is emphasising in that way that it is too loud. The first sentence may also, depending on the context, have an ironic sense, suggesting that the person is drinking so much juice out of some obligation, and not because it is normal behaviour. Again, context is crucial.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello again Peter,

Thanks a lot for your explanation. It really made this use of 'must' clear for me.

As for 'have to', I see the second example implies critism and irritation, but I'm still kind of confused about the first one... Well, I got an impression they frequently use 'don't have to' like indirect prohibition... e.g.
Situation 1
A family and a few guests are having lunch. One of the children has already drunk a full glass of orange juice, here comes another helping, more and more. Then their parent or sibling says 'X, you don't have to drink all the juice'. It's like 'You must stop right now, or you are going to drink the whole jug. The juice wasn't meant only for you but for everybody' though less direct and somewhat more polite, or am I wrong?
Situation 2
The wife is very impulsive and very easily to start fighting with. The husband witnessed her recent quarrel with their neighbour. He feels embarrassed because of that and goes 'Dear, you don't have to be so emotional all the time. Let's take it down a notch'. Again, the husband asks his wife not to lose her fiery temper in no time, but it's more of an obvious hint 'You behaviour is getting more and more embarassing. I don't want you to act that way'. On the other hand, there is no possible pressure or tension like in the phrase 'You must not do it again'

But what if 'have to' is changed for 'should' in both situations?
1) 'X, you shouldn't drink all the juice'
2) 'Dear, you shouldn't be so emotional all the time. Let's take it down a notch'
I'm wondering if it will make any difference (any subtle shade of meaning or something)?

Thanks again for your help!

Sincerely,
Elena

Hello Elena,

In the first situation, I'd say it's more of a way of using irony. The child appears to want to drink all the juice (or at least too much) and so suggesting that the child were actually being obligated to drink all the juice makes the statement ironic. As Peter insists, it really depends on the context, but in the situation you describe, that's how I'd understand the sentence.

In the second situation, the use of 'don't have to' sounds to me simply like 'it's not necessary to'. It's an indirect way of asking her not to get so upset. As you suggest, it's not as forceful as using 'must not', which strikes me as a wise choice in such a situation!

You could use 'shouldn't' in both situations and it would communicate more or less the same idea, though with a different kind of force.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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