Modal verbs

Modal verbs are used to express suggestions, obligations and possibilities.

Notes

In this lesson you'll learn how to use CAN, MUST, HAVE TO and SHOULD.

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Can

We use CAN to ask or give permissions, to talk about our abilities or general truths.

Affirmative form - We use can before the base form of the verb to say that

  • I can play the guitar.
  • She can sing.
  • They can take the train to London.

Negative form - We use CANNOT/CAN'T before the base form of the verb (CANNOT is used in formal context):

  • I cannot/can't play the guitar.
  • He cannot/can't sing.
  • They cannot/can't take the train to London.

Interrogative form - We use CAN before the subject, which is then followed by the base form of the verb:

  • Can I go to the party?
  • Can she sing?
  • Can they take the train to London?

Must

We use MUST to express strong obligation and necessity.

Affirmative form - We use MUST before the base form of the verb:

  • I must go.
  • She must study.
  • They must behave.

Negative form - We use MUST NOT/MUSTN'T before the base form of the verb:

  • You must not/mustn't leave any rubbish left.
  • He must not/mustn't say bad words.
  • They must not/mustn't behave like that.

Interrogative form - We use MUST before the subject, which is then followed by the base form of the verb:

  • Must I go?
  • Must he do that?
  • Must they be quiet?

Have to

We use HAVE/HAS TO to refer to obligations which come from outside the speaker.

Affirmative form - We use HAVE TO before the base form of the verb:

  • I have to pay an extra rent.
  • She has to do the exam.
  • We have to take our shoes off.

Negative form - We form the negative form DO/DOES NOT/DON'T/DOESN'T:

  • I do not/don't have to pay an extra rent.
  • She does not/doesn't have to do the exam.
  • We do not/don't have to take our shoes off.

Interrogative form - We use DO/DOES in questions too:

  • Do I have to pay an extra rent?
  • Does she have to do the exam?
  • Do we have to take our shoes off?

Should

We use SHOULD to talk about what is the best thing to do in a situation.

Affirmative form - We use SHOULD before the base form of the verb:

  • I should go.
  • She should listen more.
  • They should be less competitive.

Negative form - We use SHOULD NOT/SHOULDN'T before the base form of the verb:

  • I shouldn't stay.
  • She shouldn't listen to what they say.
  • They shouldn't be so competitive.

Interrogative form - We use SHOULD before the subject, which is then followed by the base form of the verb:

  • Should I stay?
  • Should she listen to what they say?
  • Should they be less competitive?

Modal verbs worksheet

Can, must, have to or should?

Read the sentences and choose the correct modal verb.

 

Download the worksheet below: