Past Modals

Jun 25, 2015

Using modal verbs in the past can be tricky since they can be used in different ways with slight but important differences in meaning.

The first way in which we use modals in the past is relatively straightforward and requires only a simple word change:

I can speak French                         (Present ability)

I could speak French                      (Past ability)

I have to go to Porto                       (Present obligation)

I had to go to Porto                         (Past obligation)


Some past modals can be formed with have and the past participle. When we use past modals using this structure, special meaning needs to be considered:

I should go to the party                    (Feel obliged)

I should have gone to the party      (I didn’t go. Now I regret it)

He might help her                             (Future possibility)

He might have helped her               (Modal of deduction)


Further information can be found on the EC Learn English Website ( Have a look and then try to use past modals in your next composition. The more you use them, the more natural they will feel. Good luck!


Add Pingback

Please add a comment

You must be logged in to leave a reply. Login »

Category List

Tag List

Francais (2)
Improve your vocabulary (5)
past modals (1)
Sport Journalism Course (1)
English (1)
exams (1)
London markets (4)
Vocabulary (11)
Free english lessons (10)
Fun (1)
past modal verbs (1)
New vocabulary (4)
Somewhere to go London (3)
Journalist Course London (1)
Somewhere to visit London (1)
study english (1)
Historic moment (1)
ICE (5)
student study tips (1)
London Summer (7)
english review (1)
Things to do in London (6)
Journalism Course London (1)
future tenses english (1)
music festival London (1)
Where to visit London (3)
English grammar (4)
New blog (1)
free english grammar (2)
silent disco (1)
Tourist tips (5)
Islington Centre for English (6)
Insider info London (14)
english grammar help (1)
efl (4)
defining relative clauses (1)
music festivals uk (1)
English tips (4)
Journalism classes London (1)
Vocabulary notebook (8)
London Marathon (1)
Places to see in London (4)
Basic English mistakes (1)
Christmas in London (3)
making predictions (1)
Learn english online (12)
study tips (9)
Journalism evening course London (1)
reading tips (1)
Learning tips (10)
Listening in English (2)
London (5)
Events in London (1)
saga (1)
Things to see in London (4)
pronuciation (3)
english school online (1)
Polite questions (1)
english courses london (1)
Tweed (1)
Social programme (1)
Cool as a cucumber (1)
Idiom (3)
Cycling (1)
things to do london (1)
writing a mini-saga (1)
english grammar online (1)
english study tips (1)
CAE (3)
Recording vocabulary (3)
Winter in London (6)
grammar tips (1)
Halloween (2)
Field day (1)
Peaceful London (2)
Hello from Ally (1)
FCE (4)
the shard (1)
New language (7)
English food (3)
english grammar tips (1)
narrative voice (2)
Attractions in London (1)
spelling (1)
Relaxing London (4)
Beautiful London (8)
Reading in English (1)
grammar (1)
english school (2)
Somewhere to visit (9)
english course london (12)
Cambridge Exam Preparation (1)
english as a foreign language (3)
Covent Garden (1)
the people's tower (1)
Students (2)
Adjective (2)
study english onlline (1)
Victoria park (1)
london events (1)
mini-saga (1)
Shopping in London (4)
english school london (12)
Business English (1)
ILEC (1)
writing a mini saga (1)
Barney Ronay (1)
Journalism Masterclass (1)
English vocabulary (3)
World Naked Bike Ride (1)
future tenses efl (1)
Learn English (15)

Tag Cloud

Shopping in LondonJournalism Masterclassexamsenglish school onlinefuture tenses eflenglish schoolEnglish tipsNew blogEnglish foodmaking predictionsWhere to visit LondonPolite questionsdefining relative clauseswriting a mini sagaJournalism Course LondonLondon marketsNew vocabularyPeaceful LondonLondon SummerStudentsCAEChristmas in LondonVocabulary notebookVictoria parkHello from AllygrammarJournalism classes LondonWinter in LondonTweedIELTSmusic festivals uklondon eventsEnglish vocabularySomewhere to visit Londonenglish grammar tipsCool as a cucumberLondon Marathonthe shardreading tipsBarney RonayCovent Gardennarrative voiceListening in Englishenglish grammar helpInsider info Londonsilent discoBasic English mistakesthe people's towerFrancaisEvents in LondonHistoric momentenglish grammar onlinewriting a mini-sagathings to do londonFunWorld Naked Bike Ridefree english grammareflLondonCambridge Exam Preparationmini-sagaSport Journalism CoursesagaFCEAttractions in LondonTourist tipsJournalist Course LondonThings to see in LondonSocial programmeThings to do in LondonHalloweenImprove your vocabularyenglish study tipsIslington Centre for EnglishNew languageSomewhere to visitpast modal verbsfuture tenses englishpast modalsenglish courses londonenglish reviewILECstudy englishstudy tipsJournalism evening course LondonBusiness Englishenglish course londonRelaxing Londonpronuciationenglish school londonLearning tipsField dayEnglish grammarFree english lessonsstudent study tipsspellingenglish as a foreign languagePlaces to see in LondonReading in Englishstudy english onllineIdiomAdjectiveBeautiful Londongrammar tipsSomewhere to go LondonRecording vocabularyICELearn english onlineCyclingVocabularyLearn Englishmusic festival LondonEnglish


We use cookies to enable essential services and functionality on our site and to collect data on how visitors interact with our site, products and services. By clicking accept, you agree to our use of these tools for advertising, analytics and support.