Modals with 'have'

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

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Modal verbs with have 2

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Hello nicky62,

That sentence is perfectly fine except for one thing: instead of would have like you need would have liked. The section in brackets describes an experience you did not have in the past and expresses a regret about this. It is quite a common way to express regrets about the past:

I didn't go to France and I would have liked to have gone.

She didn't take the test in the end, sadly. She would have liked to have at least tried to pass it.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thank you peter, you helped me a lot . I was confused by this sentence before your very nice comment. have a nice day

Submitted by takiri23 on Sat, 25/03/2017 - 09:05

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Is it correct to say "I'm sorry I couldn't have come when you needed me"?

Hello takiri23,

It depends on what you mean. If you're apologising for not going to help your friend when she needed you in a specific situation, then you should say 'I'm sorry I couldn't come when you needed me'. Is that what you mean?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by judeee on Mon, 20/03/2017 - 05:16

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Hello sir! Which of these sentences is correct: #You will have been working in that company for three years by next Friday. #you might have been working in that company for three years by next Friday. #you should have been working in that company three years by next Friday.

Hello judeee,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers for tasks from outside of our pages. If we did then we would end up doing our users' homework or tests for them, which is not our role! We're happy to explain the tasks on our own pages, or where possible to explain the rules of the language system, of course, but we don't provide this kind of help.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rosario70 on Sat, 04/02/2017 - 11:33

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Hello. I have the following caluses: 1)she insinuated i shouldn't order for her. but if i wrote it as it follows. (she insinuated i shouldn't have ordered for her. what is the difference? 2) i was worried that something might have happened to them.....o i was worried that something might happen to them, wht is the correct one?. regards !

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 04/02/2017 - 13:49

In reply to by rosario70

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Hello rosario,

'shouldn't order' speaks about the present or future, whereas 'shouldn't have ordered' speaks about the past. With the second one, in other words, you already ordered and she isn't happy about it.

In 2, the same thing is true – 'might have happened' refers to the past (though in this case you don't know for usre if it happened or not) and 'might happen' refers to the present or future.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ahmednagar on Fri, 03/02/2017 - 17:03

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hello sir. 1) you shouldn't have been going so fast. 2) you shouldn't have gone so fast. what's the difference between above sentences I'm familiar with 2 example but example 1 is a bit confusing.

Hello ahmednagar,

The difference here is one of perspective: how the speaker sees the action. If we say 'gone' then we are treating the action as complete and as a whole. If we say 'going' then we are looking at the action as something that was in progress. We often use the 'going' form when the action was interrupted by something else, but the two sentences are very close in meaning and often both are possible.

You can read more about this kind of distinction on this page dealing with the present perfect simple and continuous.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by pumbi on Wed, 25/01/2017 - 17:57

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Hi Sir ; The below sentence is correct ?. If we use this method to solve this problem, we should have clear facts. Can we use "should have" with noun ?. Here, I put the word "should" to the sentence like "We have a book " We should have a book.

Hello pumbi,

Yes, that sentence is correct. 'should' is the modal verb (for giving advice) and 'have' (indicating possession) is the infinitive that goes with it. This is different from the modal + have + past participle structure that is explained on this page; in this structure, 'have' is still an infinitive but does not express possession but rather perfective aspect, i.e. the past.

Yes, you can absolutely use a noun after 'should have', just as in your sentences about clear facts and a book, because 'have' can be followed by a noun.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by taj25 on Mon, 19/12/2016 - 14:37

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"It is nearly eight o’clock. They will have arrived by now." It is nearly eight o’clock. They might have arrived by now. which one correct both this sentence?

Hello taj25,

Both sentences are correct grammatically, though the meaning is different ('might have' shows possibility; 'will have' shows a more certain prediction or expectation).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jarljudele on Sat, 15/10/2016 - 12:59

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Hello! I wonder which one is correct 1. It should have voided. 2. It should be voided. I want to say that a transaction has done and it can't be voided anymore. Please help me thank you.

Hello jarljudele,

A voided transaction is one which is cancelled before completion, so if the transaction has been completed (as I understand from what you wrote) then you can only give advice about what should have been. In that case you would say:

It should have been voided (but was not, and so the transaction was completed)

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by tnikdana on Thu, 15/09/2016 - 22:12

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Is there a timeline for should have+pp? Is it a tense? Can we draw a timeline for it?

Hello tnikdana,

'Should' is used for present and future meaning but it is not a tense. It is a modal verb and its meaning is not time-related but rather provides information on the speaker's perspective or attitude.

'Should have' is used for past meaning, but other than that the same comments apply to it.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Antara111 on Fri, 18/03/2016 - 14:07

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okay, I read the advice. Form what I understood, we use "could + infinitive when we talk about a general possibility in the past and could + have + past participle when referring to specific possibilities in the past. Any other secret meanings?

Submitted by deliriouswombat on Wed, 09/12/2015 - 22:53

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Hi, If I'm talking about an event in the future that is sort of 50/50 might or might not happen, should I use Conditional one or two? (1) if low-lying nations are to be wiped off the map due to rising sea levels, it will have repercussions (2) if low-lying nations were wiped off the map due to rising sea levels, it would have repercussions (3) if low-lying nations are to be wiped off the map due to rising sea levels, it would have repercussions – this makes the most sense to me, as the first part in the present tense indicates probability, and the second part in the past tense indicated a conservative approach to it, but I guess it's not grammatically correct... Many thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 11/12/2015 - 11:59

In reply to by deliriouswombat

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Hi deliciriouswombat,

Either (1) or (2) is possible. We don't mix real and unreal meanings in hypothetical sentences, so (3) in not standard English. Which of the first two options you choose is up to you. If you wish to emphasise that you see the condition (the first clause) as a real possibility then you choose (1); if you wish to emphasise that it is unlikely, impossible or purely hypothetical then you choose (2). It is not a question of probability per se, but rather the speaker's intention, and how they wish to express it.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Antara111 on Tue, 03/11/2015 - 11:55

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Could you please explain to me, when to use the construction of modal verb + infinitive, to express past action and when nodal verb + have + past participle again for past actions and events? Thanks

Hello Antara111,

Please read through our different modals pages (e.g. can, could and could have) for more explanations and for examples of how modals + have + past participle are used. After you've done this, feel free to ask us again, but please make your question as specific as possible.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rewand on Mon, 28/09/2015 - 09:31

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by misam on Wed, 17/06/2015 - 08:37

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hello, 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

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 18/06/2015 - 07:01

In reply to by misam

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rayres on Sat, 05/04/2014 - 10:26

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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,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bimsara on Sun, 12/01/2014 - 01:06

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Hello,

 

'modal + have' means describing the actions in the past.Then I want to know does it describe that action didn't happen in the past?.As an example,

  1. You should have helped her.
  2. you must have told me.

In those sentences mean that those actions didn't happen in the past? And also 'will + have' is different from this.It's about future perfect.

 

Thank you.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 12/01/2014 - 10:30

In reply to by bimsara

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Hello bimsara,

You are correct that the first example describes something that did not happen in the past (you didn't help her).  However, the second example describes something that we believe happened - the speaker is trying to work out, according to what he or she knows, sees or can deduce, what happened in the past.  For example, imagine we are in a building and we meet someone who is very wet.  We know that it is raining and we can speculate about why the person is wet, saying 'You must have been outside'.

We use 'will have' to describe events in the future which take place before a certain time, but we can also use it to make judgements about the past, in a similar way to the 'must have' example above:

'He is never late so he will have arrived by now.' 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by orus_38 on Sat, 14/12/2013 - 06:48

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Hi ¡ I think, " to use modal + have " is to express probability, in the past, or present...

 

Submitted by bimsara on Wed, 11/12/2013 - 01:51

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Hello everyone!

 

What's the difference with modal and without modal?  I mean 'They will have arrived by now' and 'They have arrived by now'  I have this question for only modal verb 'will and would'.

 

Thank you.

Hi bimsara,

will have arrived is a future perfect form and have arrived is a present perfect form. The present perfect is explained in detail on our present perfect page, and both are explained on our perfective aspect page. Once you've read through these pages, please let us know if you have any other questions.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Uyen Bui on Wed, 27/11/2013 - 03:33

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Dear Professional Team,

Firstly, let me express my interest in this site. 

Secondly, please help explain the difference between: might have and may have for me in this sentence:

However hard Mealy tried to phone Jack, there was no answer. It was possible that Jack was out.
A. Jack must have gone out      B. Jack might have gone out          

C. Jack should have gone out    D. Jack may have gone out.

Thanks and best regards, 

Uyen

 

 

Hello Uyen Bui,

In my opinion there is no difference in this context.  In fact, in most contexts 'may have' and 'might have' are interchangeable - both are possible.  The exception to this is when we have a situation in which we know the outcome, and we want to speculate about an alternative reality.  For example:

Mealy tried to phone Jack, but there was no answer.

Jack might have gone out. (correct)

Jay may have gone out. (correct)

Now imagine that we know the situation: we know that Jack was out when we called, and want to think about alternatives.

Jack was out when we called.

A call ten minutes earlier might have caught him. (correct)

A call ten minutes earlier may have caught him. (incorrect)

 

I hope that helps to answer your question.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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