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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


Modal verbs with have 2




Hi, while I was searching new words, I realised something.
For example;
"Several branches of the bank have recently opened up across China."
Why we didn't use passive here? Obviously branches didn't open itself;somebody opened ?
Or If there is a rule, I have not known about information about the rule yet. Can you say the tip please?

Hi Nuro,

Yes, we could use a passive here too: several brances of the bank have recently been opened up ... The meaning is the same, but the passive highlights the role of people more in this activity (opening up branches).

For open and some other verbs, we can put the thing as the subject (even though, logically speaking, you might think that a thing like a branch of a bank cannot act by itself). These verbs are called ergative verbs and you can find more explanations and examples here. I hope it helps :)

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Are the three following sentences correct? If so, what are the differences in meaning.
1- I really must lose some weight. My clothes hardly fit me anymore.
2- I really have to lose some weight. My clothes hardly fit me anymore.
3- I really need to lose some weight. My clothes hardly fit me anymore.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

All three are correct (well done!) and in general they all mean the same thing.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

what about internal or external obligation?

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Typically grammars say that 'must' is used for internal obligations and 'have to' is used for external ones. This is a good guideline, but I'm not sure it always holds up, and in any case it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between external and internal. For example, to my mind, all of the sentences you wrote could express internal motivation. On the other hand, I'd probably not use the first one to express external obligation -- but then again, I almost never use the modal verb 'must', so it may have more to do with that than anything else.

I hope this helps. By the way, if there's a specific point you want to ask about, please mention it in your comment. We could often write much more in our explanations, but simply don't have the time to write comprehensive replies. We're happy to try to help with specific queries, but can't afford to make guesses.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,
"Everyone ___ have a birth certificate. However, you didn't have to have one until about 100 years ago."
Teacher, I think blank is -has to- as rule.But answer key says -must-Is there a mistake?

Hi Nuro,

Both forms are possible here. I don't believe this is a question from our site so you'd have to ask the author why the key allows only 'must'.



The LearnEnglish Team

--> We could have borrowed the money (= it would have been possible for us to borrow the money) -- Is "might have" possible?

--> He might have called earlier, but I was not home. -- Does "could have" or "may have" have the same meaning in this context?

--> The criminal might not have been caught, had you not sounded the alarm. -- I understand that "could not have" is not possible here because it would mean impossibility. How about "may not"?

Thank you in advance teachers!

Hello AsahiYo20,

You could use 'might have', but it would express probability (a guess) instead of possibility. As you note, 'could have' expresses that you had the possibility of borrowing it, but 'might have' would express the idea perhaps you would have borrowed it (if, for example, the circumstances had been different).

'may have' means the same thing as 'might have' here. 'could have' can also be used to make guesses about the past, and thus could also be used here, but most of the time we use 'might have' or 'may have' to do this.

Yes, 'could not have' would express impossibility here. 'may not' would mean the same as 'might have'.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team