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AUXILIARY VERBS (or HELPING VERBS) The auxiliaries verbs in English are: to be, have, do, will, would. They help a normal verb to make some tenses. A normal verb only has present and past tense, but we can make more tenses using auxiliary verbs: Present: I live in London Past: I lived in London Present perfect: I have lived in London auxiliary: Have. Future: I will live in London auxiliary: Will. Conditional: I would live in London auxiliary: Would Present continuous: I am living in London auxiliary: Be. Passive voice: I am called Tim auxiliary: Be. Present perfect continuous: I have been living in London auxiliaries: Have & Be. Negative: I don't live in London auxiliary: Do. Etc. To be to make continuous forms and the passive voice: I am writing a letter - The window was broken Have to make the present perfect: He has lived here for 5 years Do to make negatives, interrogatives, etc.: I don't like tennis / do you know him? Yes, I do. Will to express future: They will come to visit me Would to make conditionals: If you had problems, I would help you.

MODAL VERBS Modal verbs are used to express ideas such as possibility, intention, deduction, suggestion, obligation, etc. Modal verbs never change, they don't add an -S for the 3rd person singular and they don't use TO before or after them (exceptions: to be, ought to): Normal: I live here, he lives here Modal: I can swim, he can swim Normal: I want to go Modal: I may go POSSIBILITY: May & Might - It may rain today because it is very cloudy. - If you go to Hollywood you might see some famous actors in the street. PERMISSION: Can, May - Can I go to the toilet? - May I go to the toilet? (More polite) ABILITY: Can (past tense and conditional tense: Could) - I can play the guitar - When I was a child I could play the guitar, but now I can't. ADVICE: Should - If you want to be a doctor you should study more.

INTENTION: Will (past: Would) [yes, this verb can be a modal or an auxiliary for the future) - Don't worry, I will help you. - He said that he would help me. INVITATION: Will - Will you come to my party tonight? - Sure, I will. DEDUCTION: Must ("can't" for the negative) - Who's that? - That must be John, because he is very tall. - No, that can't be John, John is younger. SUGGESTION: Shall - Shall we go to the cinema? OBLIGATION: Must - You must stay here and you mustn't speak to anyone until I come back home ROHIBITION: Can (in the negative) - I'm sorry, you can't park here, there is a yellow line on the road. SUMMARY The 3 No's: Remember this simple rule for the use of special verbs (modals & auxiliaries): NO -S, NO TO, NO DO NO –S I can/ she can NO TO I can walk / no infinitive NO DO you can / you can’t / can you?

Obligation Have to and must are both used to express obligation. There is a slight difference between the way they are used. Have to shows us that the obligation comes from somebody else. It’s a law or a rule and the speaker can’t change it.   

Do you have to wear a uniform at your school? John can’t come because he has to work tomorrow. In Britain you have to buy a TV licence every year. Must shows us that the obligation comes from the speaker. It isn’t a law or a rule.

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I must call my dad tonight. You must hand in your homework on Tuesday or your mark will be zero. You must come and visit us the next time you come to London.

Modals – deduction (present) We use modal verbs to say how sure we are about something. 1 must we use must when we feel sure that something is true because there’s very strong evidence.   

He must live near here because he comes to work on foot. We don’t know where he lives but we’re sure it’s not far away. Come inside and get warm – you must be freezing out there. You’re a zookeeper? That must be very interesting. Notice that must is followed by an infinitive without ‘to’. 2 might, may, could we use might, May or could to say that we think something is possible but we’re not sure.

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Did you hear that? I think there might be a burglar downstairs. She’s not sure there’s a burglar but she thinks it’s possible. We’ll try to get there early but we may arrive late if there’s a lot of traffic. Don’t put it up there. It could fall off and hit someone. Might, may and could are also followed by an infinitive without ‘to’.

Modals – deduction (past) In the same way that we use modal verbs to say how certain we are about things in the present we can also use them to speculate about the past. Have + past participle (‘have done’, ‘have been’ have stolen’ etc.) is called the perfect infinitive. When we use modal verbs to talk about the present they are followed by an infinitive without ‘to’. When we use modal verbs to talk about the past they are followed by a perfect infinitive. Must + perfect infinitive we use must + perfect infinitive when we feel sure about something in the past.   

You must have been delighted when you heard you’d won the lottery. The thieves must have come in through the window. Look – it’s still open. Oh no! Where’s my car? Someone must have stolen it! Might/may/could + perfect infinitive we use might, may or could with the perfect infinitive to say that we think something was possible but we aren’t sure.

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The thieves might have escaped by car but we can’t be sure. He should be hour by now. He may have been delayed by a traffic jam or something. I can’t find my purse. I could have left it in the supermarket but I just don’t know. Can’t + perfect infinitive we use can’t + perfect infinitive when we feel sure something didn’t happen in the past.

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I thought I saw John in town this morning but it can’t have been him – he’s in Greece this week. I can’t have left it in the supermarket – I had it on the bus on the way home. You can’t have read the instructions properly. They’re perfectly clear. AUXILIARIES. May



Ought to

Had better

Be supposed to

Be to


Have to

Have got to


Be going to



Be able to


Used to