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MODAL VERBS (in bold type)

PRESENT PAST EXAMPLES


ABILITY CAN / CAN’T COULD / COULDN’T I can swim very well.
AM/IS/ARE ABLE TO WAS/WERE ABLE TO I could / was able to swim when I was 5.
POSSIBILITY CAN / CAN’T COULD / COULDN’T He couldn’t come yesterday, but he can come
(IMPOSSIBILITY) AM/IS/ARE ABLE TO WAS/WERE ABLE TO tonight and he will be able to come tomorrow too
CAN / COULD / MAY Can /Could/ May I open the window?
AM/IS/ARE ALLOWED TO WAS/WERE ALLOWED TO I wasn’t allowed to stay out late when I was
PERMISSION LET sb. DO sth. LET sb. DO sth. young. My parents didn’t let me.
MIGHT/COULD/MAY (you aren’t MIGHT/ COULD/MAY+ HAVE+ P. P. He doesn’t answer the phone. He may / might
sure if something’s possible or true) have gone out or he may / might be at work.
SHOULD(N’T) /OUGHT(N’T) TO SHOULD(N’T) + HAVE + Past P. Our guests ought to be here soon. They shouldn’t
PROBABILITY (you expect sth. to happen if everything OUGHT(N’T) TO + HAVE + Past P. take long now.
&
goes according to plan...)
CERTAINTY COULDN’T (like CAN’T but is NOT COULDN’T+ HAVE + Past participle She couldn’t be married. She’s too young!
(DEDUCTION) used to express future possibility)
CAN’T (you’re sure something is CAN’T + HAVE + Past Participle The lights are out. He can’t be at home.
impossible or is not true)
MUST (you’re sure something is true) MUST + HAVE+ Past Participle He doesn’t answer the phone. He must be away.
WILL / WON’T (we strongly believe He must have gone out.
sth can happen in the present or future)
WILL / WON’T+ HAVE+ P.Participle
PROHIBITION CAN’T -- You can’t go / aren’t allowed to go out till you
AM/IS/ARE NOT ALLOWED TO WAS/WERE NOT ALLOWED TO finish your homework!
MUSTN’T --
MUST (specific /personal obligations) I must leave now, I’m a bit tired.
OBLIGATION HAVE (GOT) TO (general /external) HAD TO I had to leave. It was getting late for work.
MAKE sb. DO sth. MADE sb. DO sth. They made me stay till midnight.
NEEDN’T NEEDN’T + HAVE + Past Participle You needn’t have brought any wine, but thanks.
ABSENCE OF You don’t need to/don’t have to wash up. We’ve
OBLIGATION DON’T NEED TO DIDN’T NEED TO got a dishwasher! I didn’t need to/ have to wear a
DON’T HAVE TO / HAVEN’T GOT TO DIDN’T HAVE TO uniform when I was at school.
ADVICE SHOULD / SHOULDN’T SHOULD(N’T) HAVE + Past Part. You shouldn’t smoke. You ought to give it up.
OUGHT TO / OUGHTN’T TO OUGHT TO HAVE + Past P. You have a terrible cough. You should have gone
to the doctor when I told you.