The answers to MODAL VERBS (1)
must / have to These are the strongest modals. Use must / have to for rules made by someone else. If you break these rules, there will be a punishment. For example:
- You have to bring your homework next Thursday. (If you don’t do it, you will get a punishment from the teacher).
- You must bring your homework next Thursday. (Same meaning).
Also use ‘must’ for very strong advice or for rules to yourself:
- You must meet my friend Julia. You would like her.
should Use this for advice.
- You should make sure to sleep 7 or 8 hours a night, for your health. (It’s a good idea, but not a rule).
- You should bring your passport to the airport (if you don’t bring it, you won’t be arrested but you can’t get on the plane – the security guards will stop you!)
may This means ‘It’s ok to do it if you want’.
- You may park your car next to our office (but walking or coming by bus are also OK!)
don’t have to It’s ok NOT to do it.
- You don’t have to print your homework. Emailing it is fine too – but remember, you must do it before Thursday!
mustn’t / may not (note that we don’t usually say ‘mayn’t’).
This is a rule with a punishment.
- You must not take photos in this area. (You will get a punishment if you take any photos).
Like ‘must’, we can use ‘mustn’t’ for strong advice:
- You mustn’t say that about Julia! That’s so mean!
- I must not forget to take my phone with me today – I left it at home yesterday. (I am giving advice to myself here).
need to = a rule made by your body or lifestyle. If you break this rule, there is no punishment, but bad things will happen to you. For example:
- I’m hungry; I need to eat. If I don’t eat, I’ll get sick.
- You need to take a rest or you’ll be too tired tomorrow.
- I need to get a less stressful job
ought to / ought not to = to be a good person, you should do this OR it’s a good idea.
- You ought not to cheat in a relationship.
- You ought to sleep more! All the scientists and doctors say you should make sure to sleep 7 or 8 hours a night, for your health.
can / can’t = these are modal verbs too! They’re used for rules made by nature (or by God)!
- I can’t fly. I can roll my tongue.
So far, we’ve only talked about modal verbs used for rules and advice. There’s a whole different meaning for some of these words, and we call this other type ‘modals of speculation’. We’ll talk about those another time…
Try to complete these sentences! More than one answer is possible:
The deadline for this project is next month, so you _____ stay after work today to finish it.
You _____ walk around the building with an open coffee cup, because that’s how accidents happen.
I ____ go now, because my bus is leaving in five minutes.
I ____ get a new job, because the inappropriate behaviour of my boss is driving me mad.*
(*driving me mad = making me crazy)
You _____ go and see this film. It’s amazing. It’ll change the way you think about life!
I’m sorry, sir. This checkout is closed. You _____ pay for your items over there.
This is the final sentence. You _____ do any more!
The answers are in MODAL VERBS (3)