modal verbs howto

Next week is exam time. I’m going to study hard to pass the exams. And I’m going to recap vocabulary and grammar from all the units of the book. To begin with the beginning, I’m dealing with modal verbs. Our teacher has given to us a paper with a recipe about modal verbs related to their use and an example of each one.


Must: (I must remember to phone Emily tonight. It’s her birthday.)
Have to: (Did you have to stay until the end of the exam?)


Must: (I must buy a new pair of shoes for the wedding.)
Have to: (I have to call the hotel to book the room.)
Need: (We need to talk to your parents before making a decision.)


Mustn’t: (You mustn’t drive along this street.)
Can’t: (You can’t use the library without a student’s card.)


Can/Could: (You can open your books now.)
May/Might: (May I go to the toilet please?)

No obligation/No necessity

Don’t have to: (You don’t have to wait for me. I’ll get a taxi home after the play.)
Don’t need to/Needn’t: (You needn’t pay for the room now, you can pay at the end of your stay.)

Advice or Opinion

Should/Shouldn’t: (You shouldn’t eat so much fat. It’s bad for your arteries.)
Ought to/Oughtn’t to: (Doctors ought to listen to their patients more.)

Deduction or Probability

Must(+)/Can’t(-): (Look at her: she must have lost 20 kilos!) (They can’t be British: they speak French.)
Could: (That could be her father: he’s red-haired too.)
May/Might: (He may missed the bus.) (She might like that style.)

Ability and Possibility

Can/Could: [Present, Past and Conditional] (I can speak Chinese.) (My son could read when he was four.) (I couls swim 200 metres if I had to.)
Be able to: [Rest of tenses] (he’ll be able to resit the exam in September.) (I would like to be able to speak Japanese.)


Shall: (Shall I help you with your luggage?)

Besides the grammar tips, we were given two additional slips of paper with exercises. These were done yesterday in class.

(First slip of paper)

Put in can, could, will be able or would be able to.

1. My father ___can___ speak eight languages, but he can’t write any of them.

2. In another year I ___will be able to___ speak English pretty well, I think.

3. When I was younger I ___could___ swim really fast.

4. If we were at home now we ___would be able/could___ ask Martin what he thinks.

5. I ___could___ walk when I was one year old but I ___couldn’t___ talk until I was three.

6. If you didn’t spend so much money on cigarettes you ___could___ buy a car.

7. I can’t tell you anything now, but I ___will be able to___ give you some information tomorrow.

8. ___Can___ you understand what she’s saying?

Put in can’t, could, don’t have to, have to, might, must, mustn’t, needn’t, shall, should or shouldn’t.

9. She ___doesn’t have to/needn’t___ go to bed early; tomorrow is a holiday.

10. You ___mustn’t/shouldn’t___ drive a car if you’ve been drinking. (Note: mustn’t for law enforcement/shouldn’t for advice/recommendation)

11. You’re looking tired. You ___should___ go to bed.

12. If you’re on a diet, you ___shouldn’t___ eat those cream cakes.

13. “___Shall___ I open that door for you?” “Yes, please. It’s too heavy for me. And ___could___ you carry this, please?”

14. That woman ___cannot___ see. She’s blind.

15. That man is very tall. he ___must___ be a basketball player.

16. I’m not sure yet but I ___might___ come to the concert tomorrow.

17. You are putting on too much weight. You ___should___ start a diet.

18. There’s a holiday tomorrow so I ___don’t have to/needn’t___ get up early, but I ___have to/must___ go to school the day after tomorrow, so I’ll ___have to___ get up at seven o’clock. (will have to = must in the future)

19. I ___should___ wash my hair this evening but I think I’ll go to the cinema instead.

20. When you are in London you ___must___ drive on the left.

21. You ___must___ be over seventeen to drive the car in Britain.

22. You ___shouldn’t___ go to bed very late when you have a test the next morning.

23. Mary went to the dentist yesterday. She ___had to___ make three more appointments.

24. My teacher said I ___don’t have to/needn’t___ do my homework today as I’ve got an important tennis match but I ___must___ do it tomorrow.

25. I ___might___ go to Bristol this weekend, but I’m not sure.

26. She has taken her swimming costume and her towel. She ___must___ be at the swimming pool.

27. The lights are out and the door’s locked. He ___can’t___ be at home.

28. They ___can’t___ be English because they’ve both got American accent.

29. No, I haven’t seen Anna. She ___might/could be at her friend’s house or she ___might/could be at home.

30. He ___can’t___ be sixteen years old! He looks much younger!


4 comentarios en “modal verbs howto

  1. The second slip of paper contains 30 samples for practising modal verbs. Here are the solutions:

    1. She ___doesn’t need to/doesn’t have to___ work if she doesn’t want to: her father is a multimillionaire.

    2. Is that the time? I really ___must__ go home now.

    3. I ___had to___ call the doctor yesterday: one of my students got sick in class and then fainted. It was terrible. Luckily, he ___didn’t need to/didn’t have to___ go to hospital.

    4. You ___mustn’t___ drink alcohol; it’s terribly bad for your liver. (also shouldn’t?)

    5. I ___could___ run a mile when when I was at university but I ___can’t___ now. I guess I’m getting old …

    6. May grandmother ___was able to___ finish her studies and raise a large family. She ___could__ speak five languages fluently, too. She was a fantastic woman.

    7. You ___should___ change your hairstyle: it makes you look older than you are.

    8. We ___shouldn’t___ worry so much about our looks: we are obsessed with our physical appearance and forget about our internal balance.

    9. I tried to give give up smoking last year but I ___couldn’t___. I really ___must___ give it up this time. It’s killing me.

    10. My brother’s wife is deaf, so he ___had to___ learn the (deaf) sign language when he met her.

    11. I think children ___should___ never watch TV for more than 2 hours a day.

    12. ” ___Can___ you drive?” “Oh, yes. I ___had to___ a driving licence for my new job.”

    13. When I arrived in Rome it was colder than I expected, so I ___had to___ buy warm clothes.

    14. There’s only a packet left! I ___must___ go to the supermarket ti buy more.

    15. You ___mustn’t___ put others’ lives at risk to reach your destination earlier, so please drive carefully.

    16. We ____don’t have to___ cook today; there are some leftovers from yesterday’s dinner. (also don’t need to?)

    17. Oh, yes, I ____can____ play piano. I really enjoy playing it, especially when I’m stressed out.

    18. When I was young, I ___could___ skate very well, but I’m afraid I ____can’t___ now.

    19. The police officer told us that we ___couldn’t___ park near the emergency exit, so we ____had to____ move the car.

    20. “Excuse me, madam. I’m afraid you ____cannot____ park here. That door ___must___ be clear at all times.”

    21. I ____had to___ wear a tie when I worked for that company, but I ___can____ wear what I like now: I’m my own boss!”

    22. Thank you so much for the flowers! But you ____don’t have to__ bring me anything, you know … Anyway, they’re beautiful! (also don’t need to?)

    23. We ____must____ go on foot because of the bus strike.

    24. You ____cannot____ smoke in here. It’s forbidden. (also mustn’t)

    25. You ___don’t need to___ go to the bank. I ___can___ lend you the money.

    26. You ___mustn’t___ cross the road when the (traffic) lights are red.

    27. …. and remember: you ___cannot____ tell anybody what I have just told you. It’s a secret. (also mustn’t)

    28. We ____had to___ work very hard to pass the examination. It was really difficult.

    29. You ____can____ never tell what he’s really thinking.

    30. ____Shall___ I buy you a drink? (also can)

  2. I’ve searched the web looking for extra info about modal verbs. I’ve found some useful links:

    Modal Verb Tutorial (The English Page) They have the modal explanations and associated exercises!

    – A brief explanation of the modal verbs in Spanish with examples (

    – Modal Verb exercises level ranked and auto-evaluated (non stop english) in Spanish and English.

    – A Swiss tutorial with auto-evaluated exercises (Espace Pédagogique)


Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Google photo

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Google. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Conectando a %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.