Learn How to Use Modal Verbs Correctly
Look at the instructions in Part 1. Then try the exercises in part 2 below.
Part 1: Modal Verbs – Usage
Modal verbs are used to express obligation, certainty, possibility, or permission.
Modal verbs include the following: can, could, may, might, must, and should.
A general possibility: Learning a language can be difficult.
Permission: I can drive her car when she is out of town.
Suggestion: You could spend your vacation in Hawaii.
Past possibility: I could have failed the examination. I certainly hadn’t studied enough for it.
Future possibility: He could be found guilty of the crime when the police have finished their investigation.
Polite request: Could I read that book when you have finished it?
Future possibility: She may be upset if you decide to lie to her.
Permission: You may leave the table when you finish eating.
Future possibility: She might take a taxi home as the party is going to finish late.
Past possibility: I might have failed the driving test. I certainly didn’t feel prepared.
Certainty: That must have been the restaurant. It’s the only one on the street.
Necessity (for something that is necessary): You must have a valid library card to check out a book.
Obligation: You should have returned the video on time. Now we have to pay a late fee.
Strong advice: You should take some time off and get some rest.
Part 2: Modal Verbs – Exercise
Instructions: Complete the following sentences, placing a modal verb in the space provided. Some sentences may have more than one answer.
1) You __________ have told us you weren’t coming. We waited for over an hour. OBLIGATION
2) There are several ways to get to Chicago from here. You __________ even take the train. SUGGESTION
3) Terri said she __________ / __________ / __________ be going to the picnic tomorrow. She wasn’t sure. FUTURE POSSIBILITY
4) What a terrible cough! You __________ go to the doctor. STRONG ADVICE
5) He __________ have gone out for the night. He’s not answering the phone. CERTAINTY
Modal verbs exercise – answers
1) The correct answer is should.
2) The correct answer is could.
3) The possible answers are: could, may, and might.
4) The correct answer is should.
5) The correct answer is must.