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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 Hopefinder,

Yes, that would mean essentially the same thing, though really I would say 'the more likely we will be able to help you' or 'the more likely it is that we are able to help you' or my original phrasing.

Glad you like it!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

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,



The LearnEnglish Team

'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.

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,



The LearnEnglish Team

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

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,

The LearnEnglish Team

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, 

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,



The LearnEnglish Team