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Grammar Exercise: Past modals

We use past modals to speculate on past events. Here are some examples:

May have / Might have = something possibly happened (but we aren't sure if it did)

"They may have left early because of the holiday traffic." (= Maybe they left early…)
"They might have taken the train." (= Maybe they took the train.)

The negative form is "might not have":
"He might not have received the message." (= Maybe he didn't receive the message.)

Could have = something was possible in theory
"He could have become a doctor." (= He had the ability to become a doctor, but he didn't.)

The negative form is "couldn't have":
"He couldn't have seen you – it was too dark."

Can't have = something was not logically possible
"She can't have passed the exam – she didn't study at all!"

Must have = we are sure about something
"You must have known that we had a test today – the teacher sent us all a message."

Should have = something was a good idea (but didn't happen)
"You should have told me about the sale. I could have got some new shoes at a discount!"

Would have = something happened (or didn't happen) in the past as a result of something else
"If he had called me, I would have gone to the party."

1. If you wanted to stay in that hotel you __ booked before!
2. He __ committed the crime, as he had both the motive and the opportunity.
3. If I had known about your accident, I __ phoned you.
4. Lucy __ attended the concert, but we aren't sure.
5. You __ finished that book already! You only started reading it an hour ago.
6. I think they __ got lost - surely they'd be here by now!
7. Oh no! My phone isn't in my bag. I __ left it on the train.
8. She __ been a lawyer but she decided to study accountancy instead.
9. You __ gone to Dan's party - it was fantastic!
10. I'm so sorry I woke you up. I __ called you if I knew you were sleeping.



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5 comments

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