Who was that? Was it Reza – no, it can’t have been Reza.
Was it Craig? No, it can’t have been Craig.
Was it a fan of the podcast? – Yes, it must have been!
‘Can’t have been’ – ‘must have been’…we explain modal verbs in the past in this episode of Aprender Ingles con Reza and Craig.
Voice message from Mamen (from a long time ago!)
Introduction to modal verbs: http://www.inglespodcast.com/
Modal verbs in the past with special guest Gill: http://www.inglespodcast.com/2015/01/25/modal-verbs-in-the-past-with-special-guest-gill-inbetween-a-sode/
We can use modal verbs to make deductions that refer to the past.
We use modal verbs like must, can, may, might and can’t to say how certain or sure we are about things in the present:
Reza, you must be looking forward to your summer holidays.
The neighbours can’t be at home today. It’s very quiet. – They might be sleeping. – They could be dead!
(We always use modal verb + infinitive without ‘to’, but there are different types of infinitives)
In a similar way we can use these modal verbs to speculate about the past.
You didn’t see your little friend Coco yesterday. What do you think he might have done yesterday? (he might/may/could have…..)
Do you think he went outside for a walk? (he must have done)
Do you think he went out by himself? (he can’t have gone out by himself)
Modal verb + have + past participle = Perfect Infinitive (without “to) – ‘must have gone out’ or ‘might have slept’
MUST: Use must when you feel sure about something in the past. – ‘You must have left your flat early because you arrived on time!’
MIGHT/MAY/COULD: Use might, may or could when you think something was possible but you aren’t sure.
Reza might have already finished all his classes.
That could have been the postman who rang the bell.
CAN’T/COULDN’T: Use can’t when you feel sure that something didn’t happen in the past. – Reza can’t/couldn’t have eaten all the biscuits.
For actions in progress or continuous actions in the past use:
Modal verb + have + been + ___ing = Perfect Continuous Infinitive (without “to) – must have been going out, might have been sleeping, etc.
She smashed through the barrier across the road. She must have been driving very fast and she can’t have been looking where she was going.
Sandra was very tired when we met yesterday. She might have been working hard all day.
Reza, I’ll give you 3 situations and you speculate about what might have happened/might have been happening.
1. You see a student crying during one of my lessons.
2. I arrive at your flat at 11pm on a Saturday night with my face bleeding and my clothes are dirty and torn.
3. You walk out of your flat one morning and there’s nobody in the street. No cars, no pedestrians, no shops or bars open – nothing, just silence!
Craig, now I’ll give you 3 situations and you speculate about what could have happened/may have been happening.
1. Just a second ago you were in bed with your favourite movie star, but now they’ve gone.
2. I look very worried and ask to borrow $1,000 dollars right away!
3. You see me smiling to myself from ear to ear.
Speculate on what might/could/may have happened (or might have been happening)
…and now it’s your turn to practise your English. Can you send us a voice message to practise these modal verbs in the past? Use this sound effect to help you. (scream, splash)
What might have, can’t have, must have, could have happened? – Use your imagination!
Send us a voice message. https://www.speakpipe.com/inglespodcast
Send us an email with a comment or question to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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On next week’s episode: Idioms connected to House & Home
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Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash