[Modal Verb] – Lesson 5: Modal verbs – past tense forms and negatives

Modal verbs in the past

 

Modal verbs in the past
present past
should be should have been
could be could have been
will be would be
may be may have been
might be might have been
would be would have been

Modal verbs – negatives forms

Modal verbs – negative forms
positive negative
can (used for possibility)

It can happen; everything’s possible.

can’t / cannot

It can’t happen; it’s impossible.

can (used for permission)

Can I smoke here? – Yes, you can.

can’t / cannot / mustn’t

You can’t smoke here. You mustn’t smoke here.

can (used for ability)

I can play the guitar.

can’t / cannot

I can’t play the guitar.

must / have to / has to (used for obligation)

You must be there at 8 o’clock. You have to be there at 8 o’clock.

don’t have to / needn’t

You don’t have to be there at 8 o’clock.
You needn’t be there at 8 o’clock.

must (used for personal opinion, certainty)

He must be here – I can see his car.

can’t

He can’t be here – his car’s not outside.

might / may (used for personal opinion, certainty)

He might/may be late today – there’s a lot of traffic on the roads.

may not / might not

He might/may not get here on time – there’s a lot of traffic on the roads.

should (used for weak obligation / advice)

You should stop smoking because it’s unhealthy.

shouldn’t

You shouldn’t smoke so much – it’s unhealthy. You shouldn’t spend so much time watching TV.

“Had to” vs. “must have”

The modal verb “must” has two past tense forms: “had to” and “must have”. Which form we use depends on whether we want to express obligation or if we want to say how certain we are about the probability of something happening.

This table below shows us the past tense of “must” and “have to” and when to use them.

 

Must / have to
present past
When expressing obligation:
I must go. / I have to go.
When expressing obligation, the past of ‘must’ and ‘have to’ is always ‘had to’:
I had to go.
They had to be there at 2 o’clock.
When expressing a personal opinion about probability (deduction), we use ‘must’ to express that we feel something is true:
He must be here. 
It must be great.
When expressing a personal opinion in the past, we use ‘must have’, NOT ‘had to’:
He must have been here.
He had to be here.
It must have been great.
It had to be great.

[Modal Verb] – Lesson 4: Modal verbs to express obligation

Should – to express weak obligation and advice

The modal verb should expresses weaker obligation than must and have to.

Should – to express obligation
Structure: should + infinitive form of a verb:
should be, should go, should do, etc.

We use should for the present and the future.
We use should to give advice to someone and to say that something is a good idea.
Should is weaker than have to and must.

You should tell them the truth.
You shouldn’t smoke, it’s bad for you.
I don’t think you should do it.

Should have – for unfulfilled past obligation

Should have – to express unfulfilled obligation in the past
Structure: should + have + past participle

We use should have for the past.
We use should have to say that someone didn’t do something but it would have been better to do it.

You should have told them the truth.
You shouldn’t have gone there – it was a mistake.
I don’t think you should have done it.

[Modal Verb] – Lesson 3: Modal verbs of deduction

 

Modal verbs for expressing present probability

Must / can’t – to express probability in the present
Structure: modal + infinitive without to
must be, must have, can’t go, etc.
We use must to express that we feel sure that something is true. They are really good, they must win.
They must be very rich. Look at the house.
We use can’t to say we are sure that something is impossible. She can’t be ill. I’ve just seen her in the shop and she looked fine.
It can’t be true. I don’t believe it.

 

May / might / could – to express probability in the present
Structure: modal + infinitive without to
may be, might do, could go, etc.
We use may or could or might to say that it is possible that something will happen or is happening. They may be arriving tomorrow.
He might be away on holiday.
He could be away on holiday.
He might be offered the job.
The negative of may is may not.
The negative of might is might not.

They both mean that it is possible that something will not happen or is not happening.

We DO NOT use could not to express probability.

He might not be offered the job.
I may not pass the exam.
might not go to the match tomorrow.
could not go to the match tomorrow.

Modal verbs for expressing past probability

Must / can’t / couldn’t have – to express probability in the past
Structure: modal + have + past participle
must have been, can’t have gone, couldn’t have gone
We use must have to express that we feel sure that something was true. They must have left early.
He must have already gone.
We use can’t have / couldn’t have to say that we believe something was impossible. He can’t have escaped through this window. It is too small.
She can’t have said that.
She couldn’t have said that.

 

May / might / could have – to express probability in the past
Structure: modal + have + past participle
may have been, could have gone, might have lost
We use may / could / might have to say that it was possible that something happened in the past (but we are not 100% sure). He may have missed the bus.
The road might have been blocked.
The negatives are may not have and might not have. He may not have left yet.
The assistant might not have received his message.

 

[Modal Verb] – Lesson 2: Modal verbs to express permission

Modal verbs to express asking for, giving, and refusing permission
present or future past tense
Giving permission: can

We use can when we give someone permissionto do something:
You can bring a friend to the party if you want. 
You can borrow my phone if your battery is dead.

We also use may for permission. May is more formal and is used less often than can:
Passengers may take one small bag on board the plane. 

Permission in the past: could, was allowed to

We use could to say that something was permitted in the past:
Many years ago you could smoke in cinemas, but now it’s banned.

We can also use was/were allowed to:
We had to wear a tie at school but we were allowed to take it off in hot weather.

Saying “no” – refusing permission

We use can’t to say that something isn’t permitted:
You can’t park here – it’s private property.
He can’t drive my car; he doesn’t have insurance.

Must not / mustn’t is also used, but is more formal and is often used on signs and in announcements:
Passengers must not speak to the driver while the bus is in motion.

We use couldn’t / wasn’t allowed to to say that something was not permitted in the past:

We couldn’t cross the border without our passports.

Asking for permission 
can, could, may
 

We use can I? / could I / may I? to ask for permission:
Can I speak to John Wilson, please?

Could is more formal and polite than can:
Could I speak to John Wilson, please? 

May is the most formal: 
May I speak to John Wilson, please?

Questions about permission in the past 
was allowed to? / could?
 

Were you allowed to stay up late when you were a child?
Could you stay up late when you were a child?
Could people travel between East and West Berlin during the Cold War?

[Modal Verb] – Lesson 1: Modal verbs to express ability

We use the modal verbs cancould and be able to + verb infinitive to talk about ability.
Here’s an overview, with examples:

Modal verbs to express ability
present past
can

We use can when we speak about general ability in the present:

Tommy can swim.
I can play the guitar. Can you play?

could

We use could when we speak about general ability in the past:

Picasso could paint when he was two.
I could swim before I could walk.

The negative of can is can’t (cannot):

can’t ski and I can’t skate.

The negative of could is couldn’t (could not):

couldn’t swim until I was ten.

Specific situations – can

We also use can to speak about specific situations in the present:

I can hear you but I can’t see you.
Can you hear me? – Yes, I can.

Specific situations – was able to / could

We often use was able to when speaking about a specific situation:
We fixed the car and then we were able to drive home.

However, we prefer could to speak about a specific situation in the past when we use these verbs: see, hear, feel, smell, taste, remember, believe, understand, decide.
They could smell smoke.
I could understand him perfectly.

Questions about ability – present

How many languages can you speak?
Can you name all the capitals of Europe?

Questions about ability – past

Could you write before you started school?
Could you ride a bike when you were small?

[Tense] – Lesson 10: Future Progressive

Future I Progressive

Introduction

Future I progressive puts emphasis on the course of an action taking place in the future.

Form

  • A: He will be talking.
  • N: He will not be talking.
  • Q: Will he be talking?

Use

  • action that is going on at a certain time in the future
  • action that is sure to happen in the near future

Signal Words

  • in one year, next week, tomorrow

Future II Progressive

Introduction

Future II progressive puts emphasis on the course / duration of an action taking place before a certain time in the future. It can also be used to express an assumption regarding a future action.

Future II progressive is not used very often as it can usually be replaced by future II simple.

Form

  • A: He will have been talking.
  • N: He will not have been talking.
  • Q: Will he have been talking?

Use

  • action taking place before a certain time in the future
  • puts emphasis on the course of an action

Signal Words

  • for …, the last couple of hours, all day long

[Tense] – Lesson 9: Future Simple

Future: “Will”

Introduction

Will future expresses a spontaneous decision, an assumption with regard to the future or an action in the future that cannot be influenced.

Form of will Future

positive negative question
no differences I will speak. I will not speak. Will I speak?

Use of will Future

  • a spontaneous decisionexample: Wait, I will help you.
  • an opinion, hope, uncertainty or assumption regarding the futureexample: He will probably come back tomorrow.
  • a promiseexample: I will not watch TV tonight.
  • an action in the future that cannot be influencedexample: It will rain tomorrow.
  • conditional clauses type Iexample: If I arrive late, I will call you.

Signal Words

  • in a year, next …, tomorrow
  • Vermutung: I think, probably, perhaps

Future: “Going to”

Introduction

Going to future expresses a conclusion regarding the immediate future or an action in the near future that has already been planned or prepared.

Form of going to Future

positive negative question
I I am going to speak. I am not going to speak. Am I going to speak?
you / we / they You are going to speak. You are not going to speak. Are you going to speak?
he / she / it He is going to speak. He is not going to speak. Is he going to speak?

Use of going to Future

  • an action in the near future that has already been planned or preparedexample: I am going to study harder next year.
  • a conclusion regarding the immediate futureexample: The sky is absolutely dark. It is going to rain.

Signal Words

  • in one year, next week, tomorrow