1. can

 

 

Use Examples

 

ability to do sth. in the present (substitute form: to be able to)

I can speak English.

 

permission to do sth. in the present (substitute form: to be allowed to)

 

Can I go to the cinema? request Can you wait a moment, please?

 

offer

 

I can lend you my car till tomorrow.

 

suggestion

 

Can we visit Grandma at the weekend?

 

possibility

 

It can get very hot in Arizona.

 

2. could

 

Use Examples ability to do sth. in the past (substitute form: to be able to)

 

I could speak English.

 

permission to do sth. in the past (substitute form: to be allowed to)

 

I could go to the cinema.

 

polite question *

 

Could I go to the cinema, please?

 

polite request *

 

Could you wait a moment, please?

 

polite offer *

 

I could lend you my car till tomorrow.

 

polite suggestion *

 

Could we visit Grandma at the weekend?

 

possibility *

 

It could get very hot in Montana.

 

3. may

 

Use Examples possibility

 

It may rain today.

 

 

permission to do sth. in the present (substitute form: to be allowed to)

 

May I go to the cinema?

 

polite suggestion

 

May I help you?

 

 

4. might

 

Use Examples

 

 

possibility (less possible than may) *

 

It might rain today.

 

hesitant offer *

 

Might I help you?

 

5. must

Use Examples

 

force, necessity

 

I must go to the supermarket today.

 

possibility

 

You must be tired.

 

advice/recommendation

 

You must see the new film with Brad Pitt.

 

6. must not/may not

 

Use Examples

 

 

prohibition (must is a little stronger)

 

You mustn’t work on dad’s computer.

 

You may not work on dad’s computer.

7. need not

 

Use Examples sth. is not necessary I needn’t go to the supermarket, we’re going to the restaurant tonight.

 

 

8. ought to

 

simliar to should ought to sounds a little less subjective

Use Examples

 

advice

 

You ought to drive carefully in bad weather.

 

obligation

 

You ought to switch off the light when you leave the room.

 

9. shall

 

used instead of will in the 1st person

 

Use Examples suggestion

 

Shall I carry your bag?

10. should

 

Use Examples

 

advice

 

You should drive carefully in bad weather.

 

obligation

 

You should switch off the light when you leave the room.

 

11. will

 

Use Examples wish, request, demand, order (less polite than would)

 

Will you please shut the door?

 

prediction/assumption

 

I think it will rain on Friday.

 

 

promise

 

I will stop smoking.

 

spontaneous decision

 

Can somebody drive me to the station?

 

She’s strange, she’ll sit for hours without talking.

 

12. would

 

Use Examples

 

wish/request (more polite than will)

 

Would you shut the door, please?

 

habits in the past

 

Sometimes he would bring me some flowers.

 

 

* These are no past forms, they refer to the future.