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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Please explain the difference between the two sentences. 1.What would I miss if I choose something over something? 2.What could I miss if I choose something over something? Maybe this is weird, but could you explain why we don't use "we could like to" instead of "we would like to". Please explain the difference between could and would in a simple manner.

Hello Mussorie,

As with all modal verbs, context is key to the meaning.

In general, would suggests an imagined choice, option or likely result; could describes possibility. For example:

I would go to the party - my choice or decision, if I were in a position to choose.

I could go to the party - it is possible for me to go.

Since like is a personal preference, it is logical that we use would like to (option/choice) rather than could like to (possibility).

 

In your sentences, would describes the likely or certain result, while could describes a possible but not certain result. You would miss the meeting is sure, if the condition is fulfilled. You could miss the meeting is not certain, even if the condition is fulfilled; it may depend on other factors.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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,

Jonathan

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,

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,

Kirk

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'.

 

Peter

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir, The decision could not have been easy. They could not have guessed what was going to happen. He can’t have done it deliberately. In the sentences above, are "could" and "can" interchangeable? Thanks.

Hi Sunyoung1005,

We have a page devoted to the difference between can and could. You can find it here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/can-and-could

I think if you take a look at that page you can try to answer your own question. We'll be happy to confirm or to correct, of course!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Q1: Whether both "cannot have +p.p." and "could not have +p.p." are the opposite of must have +p.p.? In other words, whether either of them can be used when the speaker is sure that something did not happen? Q2: In making a guess about something that happened in the past without knowing that whether it was true or not, are "might have + p.p." and "could have +p.p." interchangeable. In other words, could "could" in the following two sentences be replaced with "might"? He could have got stuck in traffic. He could have forgotten that we were meeting today. Thanks in advance for answering my questions:)

Hi AkiraTa05,

Good questions. I'll try to answer below.

Q1: yes! Both can't have and couldn't have are the opposite of must have, for the meaning of deduction.

Q2: yes. You could replace could with might in those sentences.

You might like to have a look at this page, for more examples: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/modals-deductions-about-the-past

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello What is the difference between will have + p.p. and must have + p.p.? Are they interchangeable in the following sentences? You must have been delighted when you head you had won the lottery Dear Sir, You will recently have received a form We sent the invitations on Monday, so they will have received them by now Thanks in advance.

Hello Sunyoung1005,

Will have is an expression of belief. Must have is similar, but it is generally used when we have evidence of some kind (including past experience) which causes us to form an expectation. Must have carries a sense that the speaker would be surprised if things were not as he or she expects.

 

I think you could use will have in the first sentence, though must have is better as it carries the sense of I would be amazed if not.

Must have does not work in the second sentence as the context suggests that the writer sent the form. You could use must have if there were a time reference so the speaker could express an expectation that the time has been sufficient.

Must have is possible in the third sentence for the reasons above.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your detailed and prompt reply! I have a feeling that "must" conveys the idea of conclusion and is often used in explanations, whereas "will" is more about assumption or expectation. That is why I think it would be better to say "Dear Sir, You will recently have received a form", which gives a sense that the sender is assuming that the recipient of this email has received a form, rather than drawing a conclusion from some evidence. Similarly, for "We sent the invitations on Monday, so they will have received them by now". If "must" were used instead, it would convey a slightly different meaning, conveying a sense that the speaker has some evidence to support his conclusion. Is my understanding of the difference correct? Thanks teacher.

Hello Sunyoung1005,

Yes, that's right.

With the second sentence, must is possible because the evidence could be a knowledge of how the postal service works, but will is also fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

It seems rather strange that in order for me to access the below materialthis page I need to be logged in. If I don't, it doesn't show the content at all indicating it is a broken link. Please see to this. The rest of the materials are not like that. They can be accessed without login. Please see if this can be fixed as I do find it inconvenient.

Hello ysl_cherry,

I believe this was a temporary problem and should now be fixed. I have checked on my computer and am able to access the site without logging in.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, May have/might have +verb 3rd form is used for guesses/possibility in the past. Suppose, "Sachin might/may have left the country" here point of time is in the past. If I say, Sachin may/might have left the country by tomorrow evening. Here point of time is in the future. So can we use this structure "may/might have +V3rd form for guesses/possibility in the future? More example Train may have left tomorrow. He might have gone to Delhi tomorrow.

Hello Rsb,

It is possible to use perfect modal verbs with future reference when we are looking back from a point further in the future. The future perfect (will have + verb3) is an example of this:

By 2100, we will already have built undersea cities for millions of people.

May/might can replace will to make the prediction less certain:

By 2100, we may already have built undersea cities for millions of people.

 

We can also use the perfect modal (may/might have + verb3) to express a counter-factual with an if-clause (or implied if-clause).

For example, imagine we are talking on Wednesday. I plan to meet my friend on Thursday. However, there is an earthquake and all travel is cancelled. In that situation I might say this:

If there hadn't been an earthquake, I might have met my friend tomorrow,

(would, could and may are all also possible here)

 

As you can see, context is crucial.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

let us imagine an example. John is a good football player. in a certain match he did not play well as a result his team was overthrown shabbily. then the supporters discussed themselves.... 1. John should have played well. 2. John could have played well. 3. John would have played well. in this case; do the above-mentioned 3 sentences correct? specially the last one?

Hello pipilica,

All of the sentence are possible, but they have different meanings and implied if-clauses.

1. This is fine as it stands. It functions as a criticism of John's performance, which did not reach expectations. It suggests the speaker does not understand why John did not play well.

 

2. This sentence describes an alternative outcome which was possible but not certain. It implies an if-clause:

John could have played well if the tactics had been better / if he hadn't been sick / if he had been more motivated etc.

 

3. This sentence is similar to the second, but is more certain of its conclusion. It does not (like #2) tell us that an alternative was possible, but that the alternative was certain if the condition were met

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Could you please help me? Is it correct to make deductions in the following way: - "In Egypt, the underground must have made travelling round Cairo easier." or this way: - "In Egypt, the underground must make travelling round Cairo easier." Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

Both of those are correct and sound natural -- good work. The first sentence speaks about the past and the second one about the present.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello question in relative pronoun "when": time when we spent with the right person in this example "when" here is right or wrong is the word "time" refer to a time or it's just a word and can't put when?? I hope you replay thanks

Hello alist123

We sometimes use the relative pronoun 'when' with words that express time (for example, 'day', 'week', 'hour', 'time', etc.), but often we do not. I would recommend 'time we spent' instead of 'time when we spent'.

You can read a little more about this in the last section on our Relative pronouns and relative clauses page.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Kirk sir, I asked you two questions regarding "should have", whether it is to be used in future. You explained "should have" is also used to talk about probability in future. But sir, kindly see the following questions and answers, here "would have" is used to show probability in future. As far as I know, "would have" is used in past contexts. Kindly enlighten me on it. Que:Will she have gone? Ans: No, she wouldn't have. Que: Will your brother have returned from Canada? Ans: No, he wouldn't have. Thank you.

Hello Aniyanmon

These replies don't sound correct to me. Perhaps there is some context in which it would make sense to reply with 'would have' here, but I can't think of one off the top of my head.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir, Kindly tell me whether the following uses of "should have" (in future is correct.) I should have completed the course by 2021. My sister should have arrived by next week. Thank you.

Hello Aniyanmon

Yes, both of those sentences are grammatically correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir, I have seen the following question and answer in a spoken English book. Kindly tell me whether the answer of the question is correct. As far as I know "should have" is used as an advice. For example "You should have gone there". It is used in past situations. But in the following answer "should have" is used in a future situation. How is it possible sir?. So can I say now "today evening I should have left this place" (suppose now the time is 10 'o clock in the morning). Que:Will you have passed tenth class examination by the next year? Ans:Yes, I should have passed it by that time. Thank you.

Hello Aniyanmon

As is explained just before the first exercise above, a modal verb plus 'have' can be used to refer back from a time in the future. In the question and answer you cite from the book, that future time is 'by next year' (or 'by that time'). So it is correct here.

Note that in this case, 'should' is not giving advice -- it is used to talk about probability (see the Certainty section on that page for more examples).

Thanks for asking this question on a more appropriate page.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

That's very interesting to teach people how to increase their English level and specially the modal verbs because it makes problem to students and difficult to master as well,fortunately these courses have clarified us what blocked us.Thank you for your help.
Hello. I have a doubt. Can I use SHOULD HAVE with the third conditional? If I had been a teacher, I should have taught children many important things. Is this sentence correct? I am really looking forward to knowing about it.

Hello Samavor,

No, you cannot use should have with that meaning. As a concept, should describes something desirable or advisable, not something contingent on a counter-factual past. You could use a phrase like ...it would have been a good idea to... or ...it would have been sensible to...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello Can we use all of modals verb with have and the past participle? for example "S+can+have+P.P." and does it refer to past time?

Hi hadi.khorand,

'can have' + past participle is not used in affirmative verb phrases (e.g. 'She can have gone home') -- instead we use 'could have' + past participle (e.g. 'She could have gone home'). The latter refers to a past possibility.

'can have' + past participle can be used in negative verb phrases (e.g. 'She can't have gone home -- her car keys are still here.'), where it expresses certainty about the past, and it can also be used in interrogative verb phrases (though it is a bit unusual): 'Where can she have gone?'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I would like to ask you about grammer structure of "would have + Verb3". I've read the sentence of "That would have been John's car" Is it possible that that sentence has the same meaning of "I think,that was John's car." I am asking this question because I know we can use "would have+V3" structure as in the sentence below. "You used a few words that are specific to the field, but you always explained what they meant,so the audience WOULDN'T HAVE HAD any difficulty understanding." I think last sentence tells us a probability.That person just believes and expresses his/her thoughts about past situation. Finally, I think that "would have" structure not only used for the situations were intented to be but didn't but also used for expressing the thoughts and beliefs about past events. Is that true? Thank you for your kind help!

Hi Goktug123,

Your first interpretation of the first sentence is correct -- the speaker supposes that the car was John's. The second sentence is similar to the first -- the speaker makes a supposition about a past event.

As you suggest, 'would have' + v3 is also commonly used in third conditional structures, which can be used, for example, to speak about regrets. For example, 'If I hadn't taken that job, I would have finished my studies.'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir "He could have reached the train" means: Perhaps he have reached the train. So when we say: "He couldn't have reached the train" , does it mean: "Perhaps he haven't reached the train" ???? or it has other meanings?? Thank you

Hello Yasser Azizi,

Strictly, 'He could have reached the train' means that it was possible for him to reach the train, not that it might have happened. We would use this sentence even if we know that he did not reach the train. For example, we could say 'He could have reached the train, but he didn't even want to run'.

In the same way 'He couldn't have reached the train' is a logical deduction about something in the past. It means the same as It was not possible for him to reach the train.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

good day :) is this statement correct please : " I must stayed awake for hours that day." is it possible to use past tense on verbs while using models in the same sentence? thank you

Hello loucia,

No, that is not a correct form. After modal verbs we use the base form ('must stay') or, with a perfect modal, a past participle ('must have stayed').

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sumanasc,

Although there are some very reputable learner's resources that call 'have to' a kind of modal verb (e.g. Oxford), most grammars do not include it in the list of modal verbs (see, for example, the Wikipedia entry on English modal verbs). The same is true for 'be able to'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello team I know the grammatically rules for would have + pp in sentences but in the following sentence: And I think that, to some extent, I missed out on that and( I would have like to have had that experience. ) the second sentence I put it in the bracket , is correct and how? thank in advance