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

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

Tag Cloud

Francaisstudy english onllineenglish school onlineLondonEnglish grammarBusiness EnglishEnglish vocabularyTourist tipsVocabulary notebookCool as a cucumberenglish schoolenglish course londonEnglish foodfuture tenses eflRecording vocabularynarrative voiceJournalism MasterclassEnglishListening in Englishenglish courses londonLearning tipsHistoric momentRelaxing LondonPlaces to see in LondonNew vocabularypronuciationgrammarChristmas in LondonLondon Marathonenglish school londonThings to see in LondonLondon marketsexamsTweedVocabularyIslington Centre for Englishthe people's towerWorld Naked Bike RideFree english lessonsreading tipsfree english grammarJournalism Course Londonenglish as a foreign languageAdjectiveenglish grammar tipsmaking predictionsenglish grammar helpNew blogJournalism evening course LondonHalloweenJournalism classes LondonVictoria parkEnglish tipsmini-sagaInsider info LondonShopping in LondonField daysilent discomusic festivals ukeflPeaceful LondonBarney RonayIdiomenglish grammar onlinepast modalsCovent Gardenenglish reviewfuture tenses englishImprove your vocabularyBeautiful LondonNew languageFunSomewhere to go LondonICEenglish study tipsPolite questionsSomewhere to visitReading in EnglishCyclingCAESocial programmewriting a mini-sagaILECSomewhere to visit LondonLearn Englishstudent study tipsspellingBasic English mistakesIELTSthe shardSport Journalism CourseJournalist Course Londonmusic festival LondonWhere to visit Londonlondon eventspast modal verbsAttractions in LondonLondon SummerLearn english onlinethings to do londonwriting a mini sagadefining relative clausesCambridge Exam PreparationEvents in LondonThings to do in LondonFCEWinter in Londonstudy englishsagastudy tipsStudentsHello from Allygrammar tips


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.