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Grammar 51 - Modals - Past
"The basketball coach could have tried some other players." - 'Could' is a modal that connotes possibility.

Grammar 51 - Modals - Past

In the previous two High English quizzes we looked at modal verbs and saw the different ways modals are used. In the next three quizzes, we will look at the rules of grammar that apply when using modals in the past, present and future tenses. This quiz focusses in particular on the grammar of modal verbs in the past tense.

When using modal verbs with the past tense, the general form is this:

‘Modal + have + past participle’ as in the following sentence:

‘You should have performed better in the match.’ You can see that this a sentence following the correct form. ‘Performed’ is the past participle of ‘perform’ and ‘have’ follows the modal ‘should.’

The ‘have’ form is used when modals are used expressing a variety of attitudes or functions, except in the case of expressing ability and obligation. For instance, ‘She could use her father’s computer when she was only 6 years old’ is as acceptable as ‘She could have used her father’s computer when she was only 6 years old’ when expressing ability. ‘You had to halt at the red light’ is as good as ‘you have had to halt at the red light’ when expressing obligation.

In the above sentences modals are not used. Instead we use ‘had to’ and ‘have had to’ as they resemble modals and are often interchanged with them. Other interchangeable phrases are ‘have got to’, ‘have to’ and ‘had better.’

In sentences, where ‘need’ is used to express in the past tense ‘have’ would not be necessary. For instance, in the sentence, ‘You did not need to study lesson number 20’ we have not used ‘have.’

The modals such as ‘must’, ‘should’, ‘could’, ‘might’ and ‘may’ express attitudes and functions in the past tense. It is possible that more than one modal can be used to express certain attitudes while using modals in the past tense. For instance in the sentence ‘That must have been the right store’ it is possible to change ‘must’ to any of the other modals depending upon the context of the sentence.

As is the case in most English sentences, we also use modals in negative sentences by simply adding ‘not’ appropriately. The sentence ‘That must not have been the right store’ is an example of using ‘not.’

Take the quiz that follows and learn the rules of grammar to use when constructing sentences containing modals in the past tense.

1.
"I didn't know Trupti needed help. She ________________ me."
Fill up the blank by choosing the correct modal from the following options.
should have told
will have told
shall have told
can have told
'Should have told' is the correct modal. When using modals with past tense, the general form is ‘modal + have + past participle.’ Here we have used 'should + have + told' where 'told' is the past participle of 'tell.' The other options are incorrect modals in the context of the sentence
2.
"I don't know why he did not perform well in the concert. He _________ missed practice."
Fill up the blank by choosing the correct modal from the following options.
must have
can have
should have
might have
'Might have' is the correct modal as 'missed practice' is a probable/possible reason for 'his not performing well.' The speaker is not sure of the reason and when such a condition exists 'might' is the correct modal to be used with 'have' to denote something in the past tense. The other options are incorrect modals in the context of the sentence
3.
"I know why he did not perform well in the concert. He ________ missed practice."
Fill up the blank by choosing the correct modal from the following options.
might have
must have
could have
can have
'Must have' is the correct modal as 'missed practice' is a reason for 'his not performing well.' The speaker is sure of the reason and when such a condition exists 'must' is the correct modal to be used with 'have' to denote something in the past tense. The other options are incorrect modals in the context of the sentence. Check this with the sentence in the previous question to discern the difference
4.
"Although Raghav and Saurav were hungry, they didn't eat much. They ___________ liked the food."
Fill up the blank by choosing the correct modal from the following options.
willn't have
shouldn't have
couldn't have
needn't have
Here 'couldn't' is the correct modal in the past tense in the context of the sentence and the use of 'not' signifies a negative sentence. 'Needn't' and 'shouldn't' are incorrect modals in the context of the sentence while 'willn't' is not a word!
5.
"The Chief Guest hasn't arrived yet. He ______________ the flight; nothing else would have held him up."
Choose the correct modal to fill up the blank from the following options.
shall have missed
need have missed
should have missed
must have missed
'Must have missed' is the correct modal in the context of the situation. The other options are incorrect modals in the context of the sentence
6.
"The basketball coach shouldn't have limited his choice to the Class X students alone. He ______________ some of the Class IX students also."
Choose the correct modal to fill up the blank from the following options.
could have tried
will have tried
shall have tried
must have tried
'Could have tried' is the correct modal in the context of the situation. 'Could' is a modal that connotes possibility, whereas 'must' connotes something definite. The other options are incorrect modals in the context of the sentence
7.
"The manager is not in his office. He ____________ out to a meeting."
Choose the correct modal to fill up the blank from the following options.
will have gone
can have gone
must have gone
shall have gone
'Must have gone' is the correct modal in the context of the situation. 'Must' connotes something definite. The other options are incorrect modals in the context of the sentence
8.
"The corporation ________________ precautions, which could have prevented the spreading of the virus in the city."
Choose the correct modal to fill up the blank from the following options.
should have taken
ought to have taken
could have taken
All of the above are correct
Remember that some situations can be expressed with different modals
9.
"The letter never arrived. They ______________ it by registered mail."
Choose the correct modal to fill up the blank from the following options.
might have sent
would have sent
must have sent
should have sent
'Should have sent' is the appropriate modal in the context of the situation. The other options are incorrect modals in the context of the sentence
10.
"The candidates were asked to be present for the interview at 11 AM today. It is already 11.30 AM and the interviewers have not come. The interview _____________ cancelled."
Choose the correct modal to fill up the blank from the following options.
might have been
should have been
will have been
shall have been
'Might have been' is the correct modal as there is an element of doubt whether the interview is on or not. The other options are incorrect modals in the context of the sentence
Author:  V T Narendra

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