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MODAL VERBS.

Part 1

Can could
May might
Shall should
Will would
must

We use the modals to show that we believe something is certain, probable or possible:

Possibility:
o We use the modals could, might and may to show that something is possible in the future, but not
certain: (perphaps/maybe maybe yes or maybe not)
They might come later.
They may come by car.
If we dont hurry we could be late.
o We use the modal can to make general statements about what is possible:
It can be very cold in winter. (It is sometimes very cold in winter)
o We use the modal could as the past tense of can:

Impossibility:
o We use the negative cant to show that something is impossible:
That cant be true.
o We use couldnt/could not to talk about the past:
We knew it could not be true.
He was obviously joking. He could not be serious.

Probability:
o We use the modal must to show we are sure something to be true and we have reasons for our
belief:
Its getting dark. It must be quite late.
You havent eaten all day. You must be hungry.
o We use the modal should to suggest that something is true or will be true in the future, and to show
you have reasons for your suggestion:
Ask Miranda. She should know.
It's nearly six o'clock. They should arrive soon.

ACTIVITY 1. Choose the correct number to complete each sentence.

1. They should have landed by now. 2. It may have been cancelled.


3. It can be very difficult at first. 4. I may be late.
5. That cant be healthy 6. They could have been stuck in the snow.
7. You must be frozen. 8. She should be able to help.
9. She may be right.
a) I've got another meeting at 11am, __________________________________________________________.
b) It's -15C outside, ____________________________________________________________________.
c) Talk to Miriam in Human Resources, ___________________________________________________________.
d) He works every weekend, you know, ___________________________________________________________.
e) Mark's starting a new school on Monday, _______________________________________________________.
f) I am thinking again about what Alison said, ____________________________________________________.
g) I can't see your train on the board, ______________________________________________________________.
h) There were no delays, _______________________________________________________________.

MODAL VERBS. Part 2

The modals are used to do things like talking about ability, asking permission making requests, etc.

Ability:
o We use can to talk about someones skill or general abilities:
She can speak several languages.
They cant dance very well.
o We use can to talk about the ability to do something at a given time in the present or future:
They can run but they cant hide.
o We use could to talk about past time:
She could speak several languages.
They couldnt dance very well.

Permission:
o We use can to ask for permission to do something:
Can I ask a question, please?
Can we go home now?
could is more formal and polite than can:
Could I ask a question please?
may is another more formal and polite way of asking for permission:
May I ask a question please?
May we go home now?
o We use can to give permission:
You can go home now if you like.
You can borrow my pen if you like.
may is a more formal and polite way of giving permission:
You may go home now, if you like.
o We use can to say that someone has permission to do something:
We can go out whenever we want.
Students can travel free.
may is a more formal and polite way of saying that someone has permission:
Students may travel free.
Instructions and requests:
o We use could you and would you as polite ways of telling or asking someone to do something:
Could you take a message please?
Would you carry this for me please?
Could I have my bill please?
can and will are less polite:
Can you take a message please?
Will you carry this for me please?

Suggestions and advice:


o We use should to make suggestions and give advice:
You should send an email.
We should go by train.
o We use could to make suggestions:
We could meet at the weekend.
You could eat out tonight.

Offers and invitations:


o We use can I and to make offers:
Can I help you?
Can I do that for you?
o We can also use shall I
Shall I help you with that?
Shall I call you on your mobile?
o We sometime say I can ... or I could ... or Ill (I will) ... to make an offer:
I can do that for you if you like.
Ill give you a lift to the station.
o We use would you like (to) ... for invitations:
Would you like to come round tomorrow?
Would you like another drink?
o We use you must or we must for a very polite invitation:
You must come round and see us.
We must meet again soon.

Obligation and necessity


o We use must to say that it is necessary to do something:
You must stop at a red light.
Everyone must bring something to eat.
You can wear what you like, but you must look neat and tidy.
o We use had to for this if we are talking about the past:
Everyone had to bring something to eat.
We could wear what we liked, but we had to look neat and tidy.
ACTIVITY 2. Choose the correct answer.

1. Which one of the pair expresses an ability?


2. Which one of the pair expresses an ability?
Can I lift that for you? I can lift that easily.
He could speak several He could speak to the boss
languages.
3. Which one of the pair expresses an 4. Which one of the pair expresses an offer?
obligation?

I must go to the dentist. I can't go to the Can you give me a hand? I can give you a hand.
dentist.
5. Which one of the pair expresses a request? 6. Which one of the pair expresses an invitation?
Could we meet on We could meet on We must go out for a We must get out of the
Thursday? Thursday. drink. building.
7. Which one of the pair expresses a request 8. Which one of the pair expresses advice?
for permission?
Could I go now? I could go now. You should speak to a You may speak to a
lawyer. lawyer.
9. Which one of the pair expresses a
suggestion?
Could we meet on We could meet on
Thursday? Thursday.