Modal Verbs


Modal Verbs Table


ModalUSESPRESENT/FUTURE PAST
be supposed to expectationWe are supposed to meet them here.We were supposed to meet here.
be to strong expectation We are to meet them here. We were to meet them here.
can / could

Can - Can't

Could
ability/possibility

informal permission

informal polite request

impossibility(negative only)
I can learn modal verbs online.

You can use my car tomorrow.

Can I borrow your book?

Cats can't swim.
I could jump high a few years ago but now I can't.



That can't have been true!
have to necessity


lack of necessity(negative)
I have to go to class today.

I don't have to go to class today.
I had to go to class yesterday.

I didn't have to go to class yesterday.
have got tonecessityI have got to go to class today I had to go to class yesterday.
had betterstrongly advised You had better be on time. (past form uncommon)
may polite request
formal permission
less than 50% certainty
May I borrow your book?
You may leave the room.
He may be at the school.



He may have been at school.
Mightless than 50% certainty He might be at school. He might have been at school.
muststrong necessity


prohibition


95% certainty
I must go to class today.

You must not open that door.

Mary isn't in class. She must be sick.(present only)
I had to go to class yesterday.



Mary must have been sick yesterday.
ought toadvisability


80% certainty
I ought to study tonight.


She ought to be at school
I ought to have studied last night.

She ought to have done well on the test.
shallask another person's opinion(only used with I or we) Shall I invite them too?
Shall we dance?
should advisability


80% certainty
I should study tonight


He should be at school
You should have paid your bills.

He should have done well on the test.




Another Reference for Modals


Legal Obligation / OfficialMUST Police officer: 'You must wear a seatbelt.'
Logical ConclusionMUST The teacher's absent. She must be sick.
Reporting a RuleBE SUPPOSED TO We are supposed turn our cell phones off in movie theaters.
Personal Necessity / Obligation HAVE TO / HAVE GOT TOI have to call the doctor today.
PossibilityCAN I can meet with you on Friday.
AbilityCAN / BE ABLE TO I can play the piano.
I am able to speak English.
PermissionCAN / BE ALLOWED TOI can have a dog in my apartment. I am allowed to have pets in my room.
Past AbilityCOULD / WAS ABLE TO When I was a kid, I could run for hours.
could vs was were able to
Past PermissionWAS ALLOWED / PERMITTED TO I wasn't allowed to go out at nights.
AdviceSHOULDYou should call your mother on her birthday.
Warning HAD BETTERYou'd better study before the test.
A Choice / Not required DON'T HAVE TO I don't have to wear a suit to work.
Possibility / Uncertainty about the future
*adverb MAYBE
MAY / MIGHT It might / may rain this evening.
May be it will rain this evening.
Polite request WOULD / COULD Would you open the door, please?
PermissionMAY / CAN / COULD May I borrow your pen?
To express what you wantWOULD LIKE I would like to learn English free.
PreferenceWOULD RATHER I would rather walking than driving.

























































































































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