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Modal verbs

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




Hello LilyLinSZ,

1) This use of should is a variant on the present subjunctive, used for expressing things that we wish for, assume or imagine. You can read more about the subjunctive in English here:


2) In this sentence, will expresses a firm belief or certain knowledge; must expresses a strong expectation based on existing knowledge, deduction or experience. Will expresses certainty on the part of the speaker; must expresses strong expectation, but is still speculative.


3) The explanation here is the same as for the second question. Both will and must are possible, with the differences in meaning noted above. You could also use might, may, could and should). If you change by now to yet then the negative forms of the modals are also possible.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Teacher,

I hope you are doing great!

Your secretary told me that you would be coming over. Otherwise I should have felt compelled to call you at home - Why is "should have felt..." used instead of "would have felt..."

I reluctantly agreed to a postponement on condition that the sale should be completed and the boat handed over by 31st August.

Is the use of 'should' here considered a past tense form of "shall"?

Hi hyunjoo76,

In the first example, using should sounds more formal or official in style than would

For the second example, yes! Should here has the meaning of shall in the past tense. It's another example of should to make a statement sound official.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello English Team,

"I thought the eclipse was today, but it must be happening tomorrow."

Could I say 'will be happening' instead?


Hi cms10,

Yes, you could use will be happening in this sentence. But, the meaning is a bit different.

  • In the original, it must be happening is a deduction (i.e. it's a conclusion that you have made, based on some evidence or information). See this modals of deduction page for more information.
  • If you say it will be happening, it's simply stating a fact (i.e. it doesn't contain the meaning that you've drawn this conclusion from some evidence).

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Can you help me to choose the correct answer? I think that all of them are correct, right?
- (Were he - Had he - Did he have) to stay up late, he would have tomorrow off.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both Were to and Had he are possible answers and both refer to hypothetical futures. Did he have is not possible as it would be only used in a question.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher,

What is the function of "should" in the following sentence?

"We only married in order that the child should be legitimate."

Thank you.

Hi patph0510,

The phrase ' order that the child shoud be...' means the same as ' that the child would be...'

This use of should is very formal and rather archaic. It is highly unusual in modern English.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,

I am very confused about the use of 'Could'. I was watching one of learning videos and I saw the use of below statement :
Could you say that again, please?

Here in above statement , why we used 'Could'. We can say like :
Can you say that again , please?