Modal verbsare used to express the speakers attitude to the action of the main verb, they are auxiliary verbs they are part of the predicate. Most of them are followed by the infinitive without the particle to; modal verbs do not have the third person Singular ending - s. Modal verbs do not form tenses like ordinary verbs. Some of them have only one tense form, the form of the Past Simple.

Questions are made by putting the modal verb in front of the subject. Negatives are made by putting not immediately after the modal (often shortened to nt in spoken and informal written English), e.g.


Can I? I cannot (cant)
Could I? I could not (couldnt)
May I? I may not
Might I? I might not
Shall I? I shall not (shant)
Should I? I should not (shouldnt)
Must I? I must not (mustnt)
Need I ? I need not (neednt)
Ought I ? I ought not (oughtnt)



I. The modal verb may / might is used to speak about permission or prohibition (in the 1st, 2nd and even 3d person). It is very formal and always implies authority, e.g.


May I use your phone? Yes, you may.

Might I speak to Mr. Jones, please?

You may not leave the examination room before the bell.

Tell him he may take my car. ( = I give him permission to take it.)


II. To speak about permission or prohibition in the Past or Future the equivalent be allowed to do sth is used, e.g.


Were you allowed to use Mr. Jones phone? Yes, I was.

We wont be allowed to leave the room before the bell.

Ex. 46. Fill in May I ? ( = Will you allow it?) or Am I allowed ? ( = What is the rule?). Answer the questions.

1. ask you the time? 2. feed the animals in the zoo? 3. keep pets in my apartment? 4. see what youre reading? 5. help you with that suitcase? 6. make personal phone calls? 7. take this seat? 8. use a dictionary at the exam? 9. have a day off today?


Ex. 47. Express permission or prohibition in the proper tense form.

1. I leave the office as soon as I have finished? 2. He was told they have an extra day off every week. 3. You use my office while Im away. 4. He (not) get up until his temperature goes down. 5. We go on this trip if we have finished the work by the end of next week. 6. He (not) drive since his accident. 7. When he was a child he do exactly as he liked. 8. He asked if he read the letter. 9. I had a visa, so I cross the frontier. 10. You (not) bring your mobile phone into the examination room.


I. The modal verb can / could is used for requests / permission (asking permission to do sth) / prohibition / offers in informal situations, e.g.


Can/Could I borrow your pen? Yes (Of course), you can. Here you


Im afraid, you cant wait here. (mild prohibition)

He said I could use his car.

Can / Could I offer you some coffee?

What can I do for you?


II. It is also used to express ability / inability to do sth in the Present or Past, e.g.


He can read Arabic but I cant.

He could swim when he was five.


III. The equivalent of can in other tense and verb forms is be (un)able to do sth.


I think hell be able to run the marathon tomorrow.

, .


I hate her being unable to understand such simple things.

, .


NOTE: In the Past could and was/were able to are not the same. When we speak about a persons abilities in general, both can be used; but when we describe one particular situation, a single action, in the meaning of managed, only the latter is used, e.g.

I knew that he could (was able to) play chess. (ability)

, .


I hear he was able to win that match. ( = managed)

, .


In the negative, though, the form could not can be used in both cases, e.g.

He couldnt dance at all. (inability)


I couldnt open the door with my key. ( = didnt manage)



Ex. 48. Use can (could) in the following sentences and state their meaning.

1. I borrow your book? 2. What I do for you? 3. The boss says we leave at 5 oclock today. 4. We (not) bring our dog into the restaurant.

5. How I help you? 6. You (not) eat sandwiches in the library. 7. You take two books home. 8. you lend me £5? No, I (not) . 9. If a letter comes for me you please forward it to this address? 10. I speak to Mr. Pitt, please? Im afraid hes out at the moment. you ring back later?


Ex. 49. Ask each other questions about what you can do and give true answers.

Model: swim → Can you swim? Yes, I can. (No, I cant)


1. play chess 2. dance 3. play a musical instrument 4. dive 5. ski 6. roller-skate 7. knit 8. play hockey 9. speak French 10. make a pizza 11. sew a button onto your shirt 12. drive a car



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