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Modal verbs

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Modal Verbs

Can is used to express someone's ability

Subject + can + Verb( base form) + Object

  • I can speak English.
  • We can explore the Amazon.
  • The Fish can swim.
  • Mark can swim very well.


To request
Can + Subject + verb + Object?
  • Can I have some information about English courses.
  • Can you tell me where the post office is?
  • Can you pass that book ?
  • Can you help me to find my way?

Could
Past form of Can - to Express past abilities of someone
  • I could speak German those days. ( It means Now I can't. Early I spoke German)
  • She could attend the meeting.
  • We could achieve our freedom from terrorism.
  • The Government troops could capture Phabakaran.
  • Our president could wipe out terrorism from our country after 3 decades. 

Could is also used to request in a polite way

  • Could I speak to Mr. John?
  • Could you figure out this?
  • Could you tell me where the railway station is?
  • Could you make me out?
  • Could you do this for me?


To give permission

  • You can go now.
  • She can come to my place.
  • you can open your books now.
  • They can enter to my site.
  • Rachelle can make her mistakes correct. 


May

To say or express possibility

Subject + may + Verb (simple form) + Object

  1. It may rain tomorrow. ( We are not sure about raining.)
  2. They may understand the situation. 
  3. Ray may come tomorrow.
  4. She may realize the matter.
  5. Johana may find the treasure.



To get permission

May + Subject + Verb ( simple form) + Object?

  1. May I come in sir?
  2. May I know who is speaking over there?
  3. May I call you Don?
  4. May we write it?
  5. May we go out now?

To Give permission

Subject + May + Verb (simple form) + Object

  1. You may go now.
  2. You may write it.
  3. You may come now.
  4. You may sit.
  5. You may have some more.
To Greet
May + Subject + Verb (simple form) + Object!
  1. May God bless you!
  2. May Allah bless you!
  3. May he rest in peace!
  4. May you have lucky children!
  5. May your all dreams come true! 

Used to

Subject + used to + Verb ( base form) + Object

  • To express past habits, but now those habits are not done.
  1. We used to go to beach and play Cricket. ( but now We don't go to beach.)
  2. she used to mock at others. But now she doesn't.
  3. I used to play with my father Badminton.
  4. Rachelle used to play the piano.
  5. Tania used to sing songs when she was at the class.


  • We can use Simple past tense also to express past habits.

  1. I went to beach on my days of schooling.
  2. She mocked at others.
  3. I played with my father Badminton.
  4. Rachelle played the piano.
  5. Tania sang songs when she was at the class.

Shall is used for suggesting

Shall + Subject + verb +Object?

  • Shall I show you how this camera works?
  • Shall we go out for dinner?
  • Shall we do this?



Should

is most commonly used to make recommendations or give advice.

Subject + Should + verb + object


  1. You should do your home work today itself. ( advice)
  2. When you go to Colombo you should visit Colombo museum. (recommendation)


Must

Must is used to express certainly, necessity or strong recommendation. Some times must not is used to express prohibition

Subject + must + verb + Object

  1. You must be the manager that we have been searching! certainty
  2. Students must pass an entrance examination to study at this school. necessity
  3. You must take some medicine for that cough. strong recommendation
  4. Jane, you must not play in the street! prohibition

Could have + verb (past participle)
'could have' is used  to talk about something somebody was capable of doing but didn't do. 
  1. She could have informed me before leaving. (ඈයට කියන්න තිබුනනේ යන්න ඉස්සර වෙලා)
  2. You could have done it. (ඔයාට ඒක කරන්න තිබුනනේ)
  3. Mary could have cleaned the room. (මේරිට තිබුනනේ කාමරය පිරිසිදු කරන්න)
Should have + Verb(Past Participle)
is used to talk about past events that did not happen. 
  1. You should have informed me that.(ඔයා ඒ ගෑන මට දෑන්විය යුතුව තිබුනා.)
  2. He should have sent everybody a reminder by email.
Had Better + Verb( Simple form)

is most commonly used to make recommendations. 

  1.  I think you had better talk this matter with the manager.(මම හිතන්නේ ඔයා මේ ගෑටලුව සම්බන්දව කළමනාකර තුමා සමග කාථා කලොත් හොදයි කියලා.)
  2. If you are not well today,you had better stay at home.
Might/may  have + Verb(Past Participle)
1) You might have heard about the new movie.
 2) she might have seen me. (May be she saw me)
 3) People might have come to know his arrival.
 4) Mother might have prepared lunch.
 5) Class might have started.