B2 First: modal verbs

You will need to be able to use modal verbs (must, should, could etc.) and the different verb forms which come after them. If you want more details, you can read about these more in the main grammar pages of this website. More information about the modal verb would is in my B2 First conditionals pages.

There are 5 patterns you need to remember which follow modal verbs:

Modal + verb refers to a single action (usually future) or a state (now)

He should go.

Modal + be + verb-ing refers to an action in progress (usually now)

He should be going.

Modal + have + past participle (e.g. done, gone, been) refers to a finished action (usually past)

He should have gone.

Modal + be + past participle (e.g. done, gone, been) is a passive (someone else does it to him)

He should be told.

Modal + have + been + past participle (e.g. done, gone, been) is a past passive (someone did it to him)

He should have been told.

The exact meaning depends on the modal verb used. For example, "He should have gone" means "he didn't go, and this was a mistake", while "He must have gone" means "I am sure that he went."

Practice 1: open cloze (use of English part 2)

Complete these sentences with just one word.

  1. No one knows how he died, but one theory is that it have been a tragic accident.
  2. The potato crops may have destroyed by insects.
  3. Scientists have many theories about what might causing global warming.
  4. When zoologists measured the spiders, they realised that they must been at least 16cm in length.
  5. I should have some housework at the weekend.
  6. It is not true that the Great Wall of China can seen from the moon.

Practice 2: key transformations (use of English part 4)

You might also be tested on modal verbs in the Key Transformations part of the exam. Rewrite these sentences using 2-5 words and the word in brackets. Make sure you think about the time - is it past, present or future?

1. I'm sure he didn't understand what I was saying to him.

He what I was saying to him. (misunderstood)

2. It's possible that he missed his train.

He his train. (might)

3. It was very wrong of you to borrow my car without asking.

You my car without asking. (have)

4. Maybe Tom is looking for a new place to live.

Tom for a new place to live. (could)

5. Why aren't you at home revising for your exam?

You for your exam at home now. (be)

6. He looks really disappointed. Obviously, he expected to win the race.

He looks really disappointed. He to win the race.