The modal verbs are can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would and must.

The modals are used to show that we believe something is certain, probable or possible:

Possibility:

We use the modals could, might and may to show that something is possible in the future, but not certain:

They might come later. (= Perhaps/Maybe they will come later.)
They may come by car. (= Perhaps/Maybe they will come by car.)
If we don’t hurry we could be late. (= Perhaps/Maybe we will be late)

We use could have, might have and may have to show that something was possible now or at some time in the past:

It’s ten o’clock. They might have arrived now.
They could have arrived hours ago.

We use the modal can to make general statements about what is possible:

It can be very cold in winter. (= It is sometimes very cold in winter)
You can easily lose your way in the dark. (= People often lose their way in the dark)

We use the modal could as the past tense of can:

It could be very cold in winter. (= Sometimes it was very cold in winter.)
You could lose your way in the dark. (= People often lost their way in the dark)

Impossibility:

We use the negative can’t or cannot to show that something is impossible:

That can’t be true.
You cannot be serious.

We use couldn’t/could not to talk about the past:

We knew it could not be true.
He was obviously joking. He could not be serious.

Probability:

We use the modal must to show we are sure something to be true and we have reasons for our belief:

It’s getting dark. It must be quite late.
You haven’t eaten all day. You must be hungry.

We use must have for the past:

They hadn’t eaten all day. They must have been hungry.
You look happy. You must have heard the good news.

We use the modal should to suggest that something is true or will be true in the future, and to show you have reasons for your suggestion:

Ask Miranda. She should know.
It's nearly six o'clock. They should arrive soon.

We use should have to talk about the past:

It's nearly eleven o'clock. They should have arrived by now.

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hello hikaru tsuki,

Which of these you use depends on what you consider the current, normal or likely state. For example, if I say 'I might come' then I am suggesting or assuming that the normal situation is not coming, and I am saying that there is a chance of this changing.

As another example, if I look out of the window and say 'It might rain' then I am suggesting that the normal/expect weather is dry, but that rain has become a possiblility.

 


Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, teachers.
I wander if this sentence correct, I mean the use of (might not) to talk about an impossible situation in the past?
Here is the sentence (They lost the game yesterday. They might not have played well.)??

Hello Karzan,

You can use 'might not' with 'have played' to speculate about the past, but I wouldn't call that an impossible situation. By the way, another way to speculate about why they lost is: 'Perhaps they didn't play well'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Please, can someone tell me which one of these is correct:
1) May John keep doing the task....
or
2) May John keeps doing the task...

Hello Adediran,

The first sentence is correct, though it is not a particularly natural or likely sentence.

After modal verbs such as 'may' we use the base form of the verb, without the third-person 's'.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

can anyone please explain the rules of having .

I mean which one will be right

I am doing fun
I am having fun

Hello habib047,

I'd encourage you to look up 'fun' in the dictionary – see the Search box on the lower right. 'do' does not collocate (go with) 'fun', but 'have fun' is a common phrase, as you'll see in the dictionary.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers. I have a question for you if you don't mind. Please can someone say why in this sentence the 'would' instead of 'would have'?
I thought back to our childhood, when she and I would find ourselves walking ...

Hello rewand,

This is 'would' used to describe past habits. For example, I could say 'When I was a child, I would go for long walks every morning'.

'Would have' here would describe an unreal past - something the speaker would have done (if it had been possible).

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Here is two confusing sentence...
1. If we don’t hurry we could be late.
>>>Here could be is used to shows something is possible in future.
but,
2. It could be very cold in winter.
>>>Here could be is used to describe past. how??

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