Modal and Modal Phrases (Semi-Modals)
A modal is a type of auxiliary (helping) verb that is used to express: ability, possibility, permission or obligation. Modal phrases (or semi-modals) are used to express the same things as modals, but are a combination of auxiliary verbs and the preposition to. The modals and semi-modals in English are:
1.Can/could/be able to
Can, Could, Be Able To
Can, could and be able to are used to express a variety of ideas in English:
Ability/Lack of Ability
Present and Future :
can/can't + base form of the verb
1. Johan can write poetry very well.
2. I can help you with that next week.
3. Alia can't speak French.
am / is / are / will be + able to + base form of the verb
am not/ isn't / aren't/ won't be + able to + base form of the verb
1. Jack is able to solve complicated math equations
2. The support team will be able to help you in about ten minutes.
3. I won't be able to visit you next summer.
could / couldn't + base form of the verb
1. When I was a child I could climb trees.
was / were + able to + base form of the verb
wasn't / weren't + able to + base form of the verb
hasn't / haven't + been able to + base form of the verb
1. I wasn't able to visit her in the hospital.
2. He hasn't been able to get in touch with the client yet.
Note: Can and could do not take an infinitive (to verb) and do not take the future auxiliary will.
- Incorrect: I can to help you this afternoon.
- Correct: I can help you this afternoon.
Possibility / Impossibility
- Correct: I will (Iíll) be able to help you this afternoon.
can / can't + base form of the verb
1. You can catch that train at 10:43.
2. He can't see you right now. He's in surgery.
could + base form of the verb
1. I could fly
via Amsterdam if I leave the day before.
Ask Permission / Give Permission
Can + Subject + base form of the verb (informal)
me ten dollars?
Can + base form of the verb (informal)
1. You can borrow
Could + subject + base form of the verb (polite)
1. Could I have
2. Could I talk
to your supervisor please?
Make a suggestion - To make a suggestion use :
Could + base form of the verb (informal)
1. You could take
the tour of the castle tomorrow.
Exercises: Can, Could, Be able to
Fill in the correct form of can, could or be able to as in the examples.
1. Ben could not help his little brother with his homework yesterday.
2. Can I call you later tonight?
1. _______ Sonu run long distances when he was a boy?
2. ______ you please call a tow truck for me? My car broke down. (polite)
3. The students _______ to buy their textbooks today. The bookstore is all out of them.
4. ______ you teach me how to fix my computer? You're so good at it.
5. ______ you ______ reach the customer if you call him at 4:00 his time ?
1. Could, 2. Could, 3. aren't able, 4. Can, 5. Will/be able to.
Formal Permission / Formal Prohibition
may / may not + base form of the verb
1. You may start
your exam now.
2. You may not wear
sandals to work.
May + subject + base form of the verb
Possibility / Negative Possibility
may/ might + base form of the verb
1. We may go out
dinner tonight. Do you want to join us?
2. Our company might get
the order if the client agrees to the price.
may not / might not + base form of the verb
1. Adam and Sue may not buy
that house. It's very expensive.
2. They might not buy
a house at all.
To Make a Suggestion (when there is no better alternative)
may as well / might as well + base form of the verb
1. You may as well come
inside. Jack will be home soon.
2. We might as well take
Friday off. Thereís no work to be done anyway.
might + base form of the verb
1. You might like to try
the salmon fillet. Itís our special today.
Exercises: May / Might
Fill in the correct form of may or might as in the example.
1. May I sit here?
1. They ______ finish the project on time. The main engineer is ill.
2. You _____ want to stop by the museum gift shop on your way out.
3. _____ I have your autograph?
4. He _______ visit the Louvre. Heís in Paris anyway.
5. You ______ park your car here. Itís reserved for guests of the hotel only.
1. might not, 2. might, 3. May, 4. may as well, 5.may not
Shall, Should, Ought to
To Offer of Assistance or Polite Suggestion (When you are quite sure of a positive answer)
Shall + subject + base form of the verb
for a walk?
Shall is only used with I or we. It is used instead of will only in formal English.
To Offer of Assistance or Polite Suggestion (When you are not sure of a positive answer)
Should + subject + base form of the verb
A Prediction or Expectation that Something Will Happen
should/shouldn't + base form of the verb
1. The proposal should be finished
2. I shouldn't be
late. The train usually arrives on time.
To Give Advice
should / ought to + base form of the verb
1. You should check
that document before you send it out.
2. You ought to have
your car serviced before the winter.
To Give Advice (about something you think wrong or unacceptable)
shouldnít + base form of the verb
1. Jazz shouldn't teach
him words like those.
Exercises: Should, Shouldn't, Ought To
Fill in should, shouldnít or ought in the following sentences as in the example.
1.He shouldnít encourage such bad behavior.
1. You _____ get your teeth cleaned at least once a year.
2. The house ______ be ready to move into by next month. It's almost finished.
3. Jay ________ to improve his attitude. If he doesn't, he might get fired.
4. ________ I get your jacket? It's cold in here.
5. You ________ put your feet on the table. Itís not polite.
1. should, 2. should, 3. ought, 4. shall, 5. shouldnít
Must, Have to, Need to, Don't have to, Needn't
Necessity or Requirement
Present and Future :
must / have to / need to + base form of the verb
1. You must have
a passport to cross the border.
2. Elisabeth has to apply
for her visa by March 10th.
3. I need to drop by
his room to pick up a book.
had to / needed to + base form of the verb
1. I had to work
late last night.
2. I needed to drink
a few cups of coffee in order to stay awake.
have to and need to are often used in the same context, but many times, need to is used to express something that is less urgent, something in which you have a choice.
Almost 100% Certain
must + base form of the verb
1. Thomas has lived in New York for years. His French must
be very good.
must / have to + base form of the verb
1. You must try
this wine. It's excellent.
2. You have to
visit us while youíre in town.
Prohibited or Forbidden
must not / mustn't + base form of the verb
1. You must not drive
over the speed limit.
2. You mustn't leave
medicines where children can get to them.
Lack of Necessity
don't /doesn't /didn't + b>ave to + base form of the verb
1. You don't have to park
the car. The hotel valet will do it for you.
2. Tim doesn't have to go
to school today. It's a holiday.
3. You didn't have to shout.
Everyone could hear you.
needn't + base form of the verb
1. You neednít worry
about me. I'll be fine.
Exercises: Must, Have to, Need to, Don't Have to, Neednít
Fill in the blanks with one of these modals:
must, must not, have to, has to, don't have to, doesn't have to, needn't as in the examples.
There may be more than one correct answer.
1. Shira doesnít have to drive to the airport. She's going by taxi.
2. You must speak politely to the customers.
1. You ______ tell Anna about the party tomorrow night. It's a surprise! (must not, need to, doesn't have to)
2. Tina _______ register for her classes on Monday, otherwise she won't get a place in them. (doesn't have to, mustn't, has to)
3. You ________ send that fax. Iíve already sent it. (must, will have to, donít have to)
4. A dog ______ get special training in order to be a guide dog. (must, need to, donít have to)
5. Rimpi _______ get up early tomorrow. His class was cancelled. (mustn't, doesn't have to, don't need to)
1. must not, 2. has to, 3. donít have to, 4. must, 5. doesn't have to
Modals: Will / Would
will / won't + base form of the verb
1. Kim will pick you
up at 7:00am.
2. Beth won't be
happy with the results of the exam.
Polite Request or Statement
Will / Would + base form of the verb
you please take
the trash out?
if I sat here?
3. Iíd (I would) like
to sign up for your workshop.
Habitual Past Action
Would/Wouldn't + base form of the verb
1. When I was a child, I would spend
hours playing with my train set.
2. Harry wouldn't eat
broccoli when he was a kid. He loves it now.
Exercises: will, would
Fill in the blanks with one of the following words: will, won't, would, wouldn't.
1. Will you please help me lift this box?
1. I ______ like to order the onion soup please.
2. The manager _______ be pleased to hear that a customer slipped on the wet floor.
3. _______ it be okay if I slept here tonight?
4. When Igor lived in Russia, he ________ call his mother as often as he does now.
5. I can assure you sir, the order ______ be shipped out tonight.
1. would, 2. won't, 3. would, 4. wouldn't, 5.will
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