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Grammar: Expressions For Modal Auxiliaries


The past and future tenses of the modal auxiliaries  can, must (in the meaning of obligation) and may (in the meaning of  permission) are expressed via the following expressions:

CAN:  be able to + verb

She will be able to do it tomorrow.

They were not able to come.

Will you be able to bring it next week?

MUST: have to + verb

We will not have to go there.

I had to buy new curtains.

Did you have to go there?

MAY: be allowed to + verb

We are allowed to stay out until 8 p.m.

Will we be allowed to go to the cinema?

They were not allowed to buy anything.


These expressions can be also used in the present tense.

I am able to win the tournament.

Is he allowed to buy a dog?

You have to send the letter today.