English Daily Workout: Past and Present of Modals

Past and Present of Modals



2. Relationships among the modal auxiliaries


Just as would can be used as the past of will; could can be used as the past of can; might can be used as the past of may; and should can be used as the past of shall. The auxiliary must can refer either to the present or to the past. These relationships among the modal auxiliaries can be summarized as follows:







Present  Past
  can                                                                      could
  may  might
  must  must
  shall  should
  will  would


The following examples illustrate these relationships:

Tense of Verb in Main Clause                                      Complete Sentence
  Simple Present                                                                        I think I can do it.
  Simple Past  I thought I could do it.
   
  Simple Present  He predicts it may rain.
  Simple Past  He predicted it might rain.
   
  Simple Present  She knows she must be there.
  Simple Past  She knew she must be there.
   
  Simple Present  I wonder what we shall do tomorrow.
  Simple Past  I wondered what we should do the next day.



See Exercises 4 and 5.

Each of the modal auxiliaries has more than one meaning. The meaning depends upon the context in which the auxiliary is used. 



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ENGLISH GRAMMAR:  EXPLANATIONS AND EXERCISES  by Mary Ansell