Modal Verbs Worksheets

These worksheets will help you review how and when to use modal verbs. First, we will look at some examples, and then you can practice with the exercises. Modal verbs are special kinds of verbs in English that express ability, permission, obligation, possibility, and polite requests.

In English, we use modal verbs all the time! It is very important to understand the different ways that we can use each verb.

In these worksheets, we will review the following groups of verbs:

  • Can, Could, and Be Able To
  • Must, Might, May, Need to, and Have To
  • Should, Ought to, and Had Better
  • Will, Shall, and Would

For complete information on modal verbs, you can try our English Modal Verbs Series. They contain complete lesson plans with absolutely everything you need to teach or learn the modal verbs in English.

Can, Could, and Be Able To

These modal verbs are usually used to show ability.

We use can to talk about things that we are able to do in the present or the immediate future.

For example:

  • I can speak two languages.
  • She can help you with your homework later today.
  • They can dance all night long!

We use could to talk about what we were able to do in the past and to talk about ability in conditionals. We also use it for polite requests.

For example:

  • When I was young, I could eat tons of ice cream! 
  • Many years ago, people could travel without passports.
  • Could you pass me the salt, please?
  • If we have enough time, we could go to the park later.

We use be able to in formal sentences and with the perfect tenses and other modal verbs.

For example:

  • She will be able to buy some new shoes soon.
  • The President is able to veto laws if he chooses to do so.
  • I have never been able to understand this subject!

Must, Might, May, Need to, and Have To

These modal verbs are usually used to express obligation and possibility.

We use must to talk about obligations and when we are sure something is true (deduction).

For example:

  • The students must finish their reports by Friday.
  • You must eat your vegetables!
  • He is not home yet. He must be on his way.

We use might and may to say that something is possible, but not sure.

For example:

  • It may rain later.
  • The kids might like carrots, but I'm not sure.

We also use may to talk about permission.

For example:

  • You may have a cookie after dinner.

We use need to and have to for obligations, especially with the perfect tenses and other modal verbs.

For example:

  • Young people have always had to listen to their parents!
  • You will need to finish reading this book by tomorrow.

Need to usually talks about things that the speaker thinks are necessary.

For example:

  • All my clothes are dirty! I need to do some laundry.
  • I am so tired! I need to take a nap.

Have to usually talks about things that someone else tells the speaker are necessary.

For example:

  • My boss told me I have to work this weekend!
  • The doctor said I have to exercise more.

Should, Ought to, and Had Better

We use these verbs to talk about obligation.

Should and ought to talk about what is the best thing for us to do.

For example:

  • It's a beautiful day! We should go outside.
  • They ought to keep the dog on a leash!

Had better is stronger than should and ought to. It means that there will be negative consequences if we do not do something.

For example:

  • You had better call your mother, or she will worry!
  • He had better be careful, or he will fall!

Will, Shall, and Would

We use will and shall to talk about the future, especially for predictions and promises. Remember that we only use shall for the first person (I or we).

For example:

  • I shall arrive home late this evening.
  • I will call you later.

We use would in conditionals and for polite requests.

For example:

  • Would you please help me?
  • If we had more money, we would go on vacation every month!
  • It it were not cold outside, I would be much happier!

Exercise A: Can, Could, or Be Able To?

Choose the correct modal verb to complete each sentence.

1. I don't think I will have much work next week. I think I will ______________ take a day off.

2. Excuse me, ______________ you tell me where the bus station is?

3. They haven't ______________ solve the problem yet.

4. She ______________ play the flute and the guitar.

5. When we were younger, we ______________ watch movies all afternoon! Now we think it's boring.

 

Exercise B: Must, Might, or May?

Choose the correct modal verb to complete the sentence under each picture. Sometimes more than one answer is correct.

1. 

 

Oh no, I think they _______________ be hurt! But I'm not sure.

 

2. 

They look just the same! I am sure that boy ______________ be his son.

 

3. 

That looks delicious, and I am so hungry! ______________ I have some?

 

4. 

He is running very well! I think he ______________ win!

 

5. 

That looks like fun! ____________ we paint some eggs with you?

Exercise C: Need to or Have To?

Complete the sentences with need to or have to.

1. Wow, my house is a mess! I really ______________ clean a bit!

2. Professor, do we ______________ finish all the exercises on the test?

3. The judge said that he will ______________ make a formal apology to the public on television.

4. If you want to camp in the park, you _____________ pay for a permit first.

5. I have worked too long! I _____________ take a break!

Exercise D: Should, Ought to, or Had Better?

Complete the sentences with the correct modal verb. Sometimes more than one answer is correct.

1. 

He ____________ go inside, or he will get a terrible sunburn!

 

2. 

I think we ____________ play. What do you think?

 

3. 

He ______________ stop drinking so much coffee, or he will make himself sick!

 

4. 

She has a beautiful voice! She ____________ record a CD!

 

5. 

His cell phone is ringing. I think he ____________ answer it.

Exercise E: Will, Shall, and Would

There is a mistake in each of the sentences below. Correct the mistakes by adding the correct modal verb.

1. Incorrect: They shall have a meeting later.

Correct: They _____________ have a meeting later.

2. If it were not raining, we will go for a walk.

If it were not raining, we ____________go for a walk.

3. I promise I would pay you back soon!

I promise I _____________ pay you back soon!

4. I think he shall pass his test.

I think he _____________ pass his test.

5. It's too bad I am so short! If I were taller, I shall play basketball.

It's too bad I am so short! If I were taller, I _____________play basketball.

 

Answer Key

Exercise A: Can, Could, or Be Able To?

1. I don't think I will have much work next week. I think I will be able to take a day off.

2. Excuse me, could you tell me where the bus station is?

3. They haven't been able to solve the problem yet.

4. She can play the flute and the guitar.

5. When we were younger, we could watch movies all afternoon! Now we think it's boring.

Exercise B: Must, Might, or May?

1. Oh no, I think they might/may be hurt! But I'm not sure.

2. They look just the same! I am sure that boy must be his son.

3. That looks delicious, and I am so hungry! May I have some?

4. He is running very well! I think he might/may win!

5. That looks like fun! May we paint some eggs with you?

Exercise C: Need to or Have To?

1. Wow, my house is a mess! I really need to clean a bit!

2. Professor, do we have to finish all the exercises on the test?

3. The judge said that he will have to make a formal apology to the public on television.

4. If you want to camp in the park, you have to pay for a permit first.

5. I have worked too long! I need to take a break!

Exercise D: Should, Ought to, or Had Better?

1. He had better go inside, or he will get a terrible sunburn!

2. I think we should/ought to play. What do you think?

3. He had better stop drinking so much coffee, or he will make himself sick!

4. She has a beautiful voice! She should/ought to record a CD!

5. His cell phone is ringing. I think he should/ought to answer it.

Exercise E: Will, Shall, and Would

1. Incorrect: They shall have a meeting later.
Correct: They will have a meeting later.

2. If it were not raining, we will go for a walk.
If it were not raining, we would go for a walk.

3. I promise I would pay you back soon!
I promise I will pay you back soon!

4. I think he shall pass his test.
I think he will pass his test.

5. It's too bad I am so short! If I were taller, I shall play basketball.
It's too bad I am so short! If I were taller, I would play basketball.