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

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

Tag Cloud

mini-sagaField dayListening in Englishfuture tenses englishLondonTweedEvents in LondonTourist tipsJournalism evening course Londonstudy tipsstudent study tipsFrancaisRelaxing LondonILECCovent GardenAdjectiveThings to do in LondonHistoric momentInsider info LondonNew languagePlaces to see in Londonthe shardenglish study tipssilent discoSomewhere to visitenglish school onlineCool as a cucumberwriting a mini-sagaSocial programmeLearn Englishnarrative voiceLondon marketsexamsWinter in LondonHello from AllyCAEpronuciationFunThings to see in Londonenglish grammar helpShopping in LondonImprove your vocabularyAttractions in LondonspellingLearning tipsreading tipsSomewhere to go Londondefining relative clausesJournalism Course LondonHalloweengrammar tipsstudy englishfuture tenses eflenglish schoolpast modal verbsCyclinglondon eventsNew blogLondon MarathonICEStudentsBasic English mistakesPeaceful LondonNew vocabularyenglish grammar tipsgrammarLearn english onlineVocabulary notebookFCEWorld Naked Bike Ridemusic festival LondoneflEnglish tipsenglish grammar onlineJournalist Course Londonwriting a mini sagaenglish school londonthings to do londonfree english grammarIslington Centre for Englishpast modalsenglish reviewIdiomReading in Englishmaking predictionsEnglish grammarthe people's towerVictoria parkenglish course londonLondon Summerenglish courses londonEnglish foodWhere to visit LondonEnglishChristmas in LondonJournalism MasterclassIELTSJournalism classes Londonenglish as a foreign languageFree english lessonsmusic festivals ukCambridge Exam PreparationsagaRecording vocabularyBeautiful LondonSomewhere to visit LondonEnglish vocabularySport Journalism CourseBusiness EnglishPolite questionsstudy english onllineVocabularyBarney Ronay