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

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 Heeppee creepy,

Our role here is to maintain the site and add to it. Answering questions in the comments section is something which we do in addition to that, when time allows.

We see many comments every day and we make decisions on which comments to answer first. Comments which reveal problem with the site have priority. After that we look at which comments are precise, concise and can be answered quickly, so that we can help as many people as possible in the limited time we have. Questions which are long, hard to read and contain multiple queries, such as yours, take a long time for us to answer. If you had asked one concrete question then you would receive an answer quickly. Instead you asked multiple questions in one block of text, making it hard to read.

We will answer you but you must be patient when you ask such a long question.

 

LearnEnglish is a free service and our team is a small one. If the time taken to respond to your comment is too long for you then there are many paid services which will provide you with a quicker response, I am sure.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

No, its OK. I just thought nobody had noticed my question or I had broke a rule on the site, but now I know that I'm "on the air" and that's enough to me. I apologise for the type of question I asked. I know I'm not very concise most of times.

Hi all, I 'm new here and I would like to ask a question to the experts. I prefer to study modal verbs one by one, until I really get to master the one I'm studying I keep going with the next one , and by now I'm stuck with SHOULD +HAVE. firstly I'd like to know if these sentences are OK: 1 it's only ten and she gets off work at 11, she shouldn't have left her office yet, I'll ring her. 2 it's ten and she starts working at nine, she should have arrived at her office by now, I'll ring her ! 3 it's 1 o'clock and she doesn't answer, she shouldn't have arrived at her office yet , I 'll call her later. In the third sentence is where I have serious doubt, first sentence has a positive connotation since I'm happy because I think I still can get a hold of her , and in the third sentence the connotation is negative because I feel worry about the fact that I might not be able to reach her because she hasn't arrive.. The same as in : 1 Tom is very happy, his wife should've told him about her pregnancy already . 2 Tom is very happy, his wife shouldn't have told him about her plans of abortion yet. I'd like to know if SHOULDN'T HAVE can be used with this connotation, and what would the change be if I leave out the ALREADY, YET,
And BY NOW of these sentences . please correct my sentences cause this is what I'm here for ! Thanks .

Hello Heeppee creepy,

In answer to your questions:

it's only ten and she gets off work at 11, she shouldn't have left her office yet, I'll ring her.

'Shouldn't' is possible here, though 'won't' is perhaps more likelyt if your intention is to make a guess about what is likely.

 

it's ten and she starts working at nine, she should have arrived at her office by now, I'll ring her !

Again, the same comment applies. 'Should' is possible here.

 

3 it's 1 o'clock and she doesn't answer, she shouldn't have arrived at her office yet , I 'll call her later.

Here 'shouldn't' suggests a value judgement - that it would be wrong for her to do this. A better alternative is 'won't', which is neutral in terms of judgement and describes simply the speaker's expectation/belief.

1 Tom is very happy, his wife should've told him about her pregnancy already .

2 Tom is very happy, his wife shouldn't have told him about her plans of abortion yet.

Neither of these sentences are likely. Using 'should' in this way suggests a value judgement on the behaviour of Tom's wife - that it was wrong to withhold or give the information, and it does not fit with what I guess is your intended meaning. I suspect the meaning you have in mind would be best expressed by 'must have' and 'mustn't have' respectively - these are modal verbs used to make logical deductions or inferences on the basis of observed evidence.

We don't correct posts by users on LearnEnglish, I'm afraid. We simply have too many users to do so, and as this is a site provided free of charge we have only a small team of people working on it. It is not possible for us to provide a correction service.

I hope the above clarifies these issues for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

It had better be.

How to make

∆∆∆
Negative__Yes/no question__Wh question

Excuse me sir,

I watched a movie and there's a conversation that baffle me.

"I wondered when I'd be seeing you, Mr. Potter"
does it the same like :
"I wondered when I'd see you, Mr. Potter"

If these sentences don't have the same meaning, what is the intention of both sentences ?
Thank you very much :)

Hello frisky,

In this context both forms have a very similar meaning.

 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sirs!!
Please accept my warm regards on doing such a wonder job. I am confused over using "May" and "Might" and I appreciate, If I am known the difference of using "May" and "Might".
Thank you sir!!

Hello Vijay Soni,

There is little difference  when talking about probability, but please remember that modal verbs have many meanings, so 'may' can also be used for permission, for example. We have organised this section (on modal verbs) so you can see which different modals are used for each concept.

There are differences in meaning when the perfect forms (may have vs might have) are used, but the single-word forms are essentially interchangeable.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I had the same question, so thanks everyone!

Pages