Here we have the English modal verbs:
Modal verbs are different from regular verbs in the following ways:
- ‘s’ is not used for the third person singular.
- Questions are made by inversion. For example, ‘he can write’ becomes ‘can he write?’
- An infinitive of another verb (without ‘to’) always directly follows a modal verb.
Modals are used when we need to tell how much sure we are that something has happened/is happening/will happen. We usually call them as modals of deduction or certainty.
- It’s raining, so it must be cold outside.
- I don’t know where Penny is. She could have missed the flight.
- This bill can’t be right. $20 for two bananas!
Someone’s talents or abilities can be mentioned using “can” and “could”.
- He can sing in 3 languages.
- My father could write very well.
- I can’t run.
Obligation and Advice
Verbs like “must” or “should” are used to say something essential or unnecessary or to guide.
- Kids must play every day.
- We have to wear a uniform at school.
- You should stop eating sugar.
Verbs like “can,” “could” and “may” are mentioned when asking for, and giving permission. Modal verbs are also used to say something which is not allowed.
- Could I go shopping today, please?
- You may not miss the class today.
- Can we park the car here?
Practices or activities we usually do or did in the past can be mentioned using “will” and “would”.
- When I lived with my family, we would often go to the park next to our home.
- Ben will never eat this!
The past modals having combinations like “could have with the past participle”, “should have with the past participle” and “would have with the past participle” can be complicated. The past modal verbs “could have”, “should have” and “would have” are all used to theoretically mention things that didn’t really happen in the past.
Could have with the past participle
Could have with past participle means that something was possible in the past, or somebody had the capacity to do something in the past, but it wasn’t done.
- I could have woken up early, but I decided to sleep for one more hour.
- They could have completed the task, but they didn’t try hard enough.
- John could have bought a pen, but he borrowed it from his friend instead.
- She could have worked out harder, but she was too lazy and that’s why she lost the race.
Couldn’t have with past participle means that something wasn’t possible in the past, even if someone had wanted to do it.
- I couldn’t have done it. I had no energy left.
- He couldn’t have reached there on time, even if he left earlier.
We use could have with the past participle when we need to make a guess about something that happened in the past. In this case, we don’t know if the statement given by us is true or false. We just talk about our opinion of what maybe happened.
Why is Penny late?
- She could have got sick.
- She could have been busy somewhere else.
- She could have forgotten the address.
We can also use might have with a past participle to make a statement meaning the same:
- She might have got sick.
- She might have been busy somewhere else.
- She might have forgotten the address.
Should have with the past participle
“Should have with the past participle” can mean something that would have been a good idea, but it wasn’t done. It’s like giving suggestions about the past when you say it to someone else, or regretting what you did or didn’t do when you’re talking about yourself.
Shouldn’t have with past participle expresses that something wasn’t a good decision, but you did it anyhow.
- I should have worked harder!
- I should have gone a little early.
- I shouldn’t have eaten so many cookies!
- You should have informed me when you left.
- Jack should have left early, then he wouldn’t have missed the bus.
We can also use should have with a past participle to talk about something that, if everything is normal, we think has already happened. But we’re not confident that everything is fine, so we use ‘should have’ and not the present perfect or past simple. It’s often used with ‘by now’.
- Her bus should have arrived by now.
- Jack should have done with work by now.
We can also use this to speak about something that would have occurred if everything was fine but hasn’t followed.
- Larry should have called me by now, but he hasn’t..
Would have with a past participle
- Part of the third conditional.
- If I had enough time, I would have passed the exam.
As “would” and “will” can also be used to show if you want to do something or not, we can also use would have with a past participle to talk about something you wanted to do but you didn’t. This is quite similar to the third conditional, but we don’t need an ‘if clause’.
- I would have gone to the game, but I was really tired.
- I would have reached you, but I didn’t know your address.
- A: Nobody volunteered to help us with cleaning the neighborhood.
B: I would have helped you. I didn’t know you were looking for help.
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