Modal verbs

Modals are auxiliary verbs that indicate modality. Modality is the attitude or the connotation we want to express.

Modal verbs are used to express: ability, advice, obigation, prohibition, permission, possibility…..

Ability  – can  / could (in the past)

Obligation  – must  / have to

Prohibition  – mustn’t  / can’t 

Absence of obligation  – don’t have to  / needn’t

Advice  should  / ought to

Permission  – may  / can / could

Certainty  – must 

Probability  – may / might / can / could 


  • Ability  ➣He can speak several languages ➣I could jump when I was younger
  • Obligation   ➣You must stop at a red traffic light ➣I have to work
  • Prohibition    ➣We mustn’t tell him ➣You can’t smoke here
  • Absence of obligation  ➣She doesn’t have to do that ➣He needn’t buy it
  • Advice  ➣He should study more ➣She ought to eat less
  • Permission  ➣Can we come? May I go to the toilet?
  • Certainty  ➣He must be very tired. He has been working hard
  • Probability   ➣It may / might rain tomorrow  ➣This can / could be dangerous

reference: Valid Choice Burlington


A 1. has to2. must3. can4. mustn’t5. should6. might

B 1. mustn’t2. should3. don’t have to4. could5. might

C 1. You should compare prices... – 2. He might not know…3. They can’t help us. – 4. I couldn’t see… – 5. You don’t have to arrive…

Modal Perfect

Used to express situations in the past in a hypothetical way. The opportunity was not taken and the situation did not occur.

Form: modal verb + have + past participle
modal perfects

modal verbs in the past reference: Valid Choice Burlington


D 1. may have2. should have 3. could have4. must have5. shouldn’t have

E 1. b2. b3. a4. a5. a

F 1. could have stayed2. should see3. couldn’t find4. ought to have checked5. should have come6. must have left7. could go8. must be

Modals verbs exercises

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