Passive voice rules for modals

     

You might know what modal verbs are, và you might be familiar with the passive voice, but vày you know how khổng lồ use modal verbs in the passive voice?We use modal verbs–verbs like can, could, & should–to talk about things such as ability, possibility, permission, or obligation. Và we use the passive voice lớn focus on the object of an action rather than the doer of the action.

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AdvertisementsIn general, we follow this structure to use modal verbs in the passive voice:Modal verb + be + past participleAnd we follow this structure to lớn use modal verbs in the past passive voice:AdvertisementsModal verb + have been + past participleBut there’s a bit more to lớn learn and understand about using modal verbs in the passive voice, & that’s what we’re going to talk about today! We’ll talk about:What modal verbs areModal verbs in the passive voiceModal verbs in the past passive voiceWhy we use modal verbs in the passive voiceWe’ve also included a couple of exercises so you can practice these structures right now. Does that sound good? Great! Let’s dive in!TIPS ON USING MODALS IN THE PASSIVE VOICE

What are modal verbs?

As I mentioned before, modal verbs are verbs such as can, could, or should that we often use to talk about ability, possibility permission, or obligation:I can go to the party.You shouldn’t say that about her.May I sit here?They might show up late.And they’re different from normal verbs in the way that we use them. First of all, modal verbs stay the same for the third person singular: we don’t have to showroom an -s or change the verb in any way:I can go to lớn the party.She can go to the party.And you might have noticed that the modal verb is followed by the infinitive, or base verb. We don’t địa chỉ cửa hàng to or change the verb as we vị in other structures:I can go to the party.I can lớn go lớn the party.I can going lớn the party.If we want lớn ask questions using modal verbs, we usually have khổng lồ change the structuring by putting the subject between the modal verb & the base verb.Can I go to the party?May I sit here?Should you eat that?However with modal verbs like have to or need to, we have to địa chỉ cửa hàng the auxiliary do at the beginning of the question. And, in this case, the auxiliary verb do changes depending on the personal pronoun.Does he have lớn do all the dishes?Do you need to stop by the store?Let’s take a look at this table lớn see how we use different modal verbs for different situations:
UsageModal VerbExampleAbilityCan, could (past ability)She can hold her breath for two minutes.PossibilityMight, may, can, couldThey might be late.PermissionCan, could (more polite), may (most polite)Could my son use your bathroom?ObligationMust, have to, need toThey need to check in by seven.No obligationDon’t have to, don’t need toYou don"t have to take your shoes off.AdviceShould, ought toYou should try online dating.HabitsWill, would (past habits) + an adverb of frequencyThey would sometimes take the train.PreferencesWould ratherShe would rather walk.

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Modal verbs in the passive voice

So, now that we understand what modal verbs are, let’s talk a bit about the passive voice.In English, we use active and passive sentences. In the active voice, we start the sentence with the person who does the action, the actor or doer:Alice took the picture. And in the passive voice, we begin the sentence with the object, which is the thing that takes or receives the action:The picture was taken by Alice.We can also omit Alice, the agent in this sentence, so it will just say:The picture was taken.So you can see that passive structures, while they’re a bit more confusing, they’re also very useful because they allow us to lớn create sentences without focusing on the person doing the action.

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So, how bởi vì we create modal verbs in the passive voice?

With passive modal verbs in the present tense, we just địa chỉ cửa hàng the auxiliary verb be lớn the modal verb, & change the base verb lớn the past participle:You should fix your computer (active) → Your computer should be fixed (passive)Let’s look at the table below to see how we use other modal verbs in the passive voice:
Modals in the Active VoiceModals in the Passive VoiceThey can vì chưng it.It can be done.You could sell your car.Your oto could be sold.He might fix the refrigerator.The refrigerator might be fixed.They may make a donation.A donation may be made.You must finish this today.This must be finished today.He has khổng lồ send that email.That email has khổng lồ be sent.

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They need to find that document.That document needs lớn be found.She should fix her writing.Her writing should be fixed.

Modal verbs in the past passive voice

Yes, it’s true: we can use modal verbs in the past. We can use the passive voice in the past. And we can use passive modal verbs in the past. If that sounds too complicated, don’t worry! It’s just a matter of structure:
Modals in the Present PassiveModal + be + past participleModals in the Past PassiveModal + have been + past participleIt can be done.It could have been done.Your car could be sold.Your oto could have been sold.The refrigerator might be fixed.The refrigerator might have been fixed.A donation may be made.A donation may have been made.Her writing should be fixed.Her writing should have been fixed.

Important: We use must have been to giới thiệu our assumptions or reaction to lớn things that happened in the past. We often use this modal structure to guess about something that might have happened (not for obligation):He doesn’t work here anymore. He must have been fired.I called her yesterday but she didn’t answer. She must have been busy.Your trip to Colombia must have been exciting!If you’d lượt thích to express a reaction or make a conclusion about the way a person is feeling now, you can use must be:You’ve been working for eight hours straight! You must be tired.They travel all the time. Their lives must be so interesting.So, you failed your exam! You must be disappointed.

Why bởi vì we use modal verbs in the passive voice?

There are a few reasons why we use the passive voice in general. You’ll often hear it used by news sources reporting on crime or major events where the actors are unknown. You’ll hear it used in formal & scientific writing because it’s considered less personal & because–this is especially the case in science–the result of a scientific study or breakthrough is considered more important than the people involved. But, why vày we use modal verbs in the passive voice? This is because it sounds more objective and less personal, especially in situations when we’re asking people to vày something or offering criticism or advice.For example, if your quái dị wants everyone to finish a project by a certain deadline, they want khổng lồ sound firm, but not too rude or direct. So, they might say:This project has khổng lồ be finished by the over of this week.Instead of saying:You all have khổng lồ finish this project by the over of this week.And when we’re criticizing someone for something they didn’t do, we often prefer khổng lồ use modal verbs in the past passive voice because it doesn’t sound lượt thích we’re putting the blame or fault directly on someone.I should have been told that yesterday.Instead of...You should have told me that yesterday.We can also use it to take the blame or the attention off of ourselves, as in this example:The wrong package may have been sent.Instead of...I may have sent the wrong package.Well, we’ve explored modal verbs in the passive voice. So now it’s time to practice!

Practice Exercise 1

Change the sentence from the active voice khổng lồ the passive voice.1. You have to lớn find your passport.2. Someone should have set the alarm.3. She may not make the cake in time.4. They need lớn mow the lawn.5. Someone could have texted her.

Practice Exercise 2

Choose the correct modal structure.The money (should have been / should be ) transferred yesterday.A surprise package (might show up/ might have shown up) at your door later.It’s a difficult task, but it (can be / could have been) accomplished.This house (needs to be / needs to lớn have been) cleaned by five o’clock today.She (must be / must have been) informed in the case of an emergency.

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Reflect & practice with modal verbs in the passive voice

So, now that you’ve learned how to use modal verbs in the passive voice, here are a couple of reflection & writing activities that you can bởi to practice using them on your own. Before you start writing, it might be good to lớn take a screenshot of the modal structures above so that you can have them on hand as a reference.Imagine that you’re going lớn have a small get-together at your house or apartment this evening. You don’t have much time! What things need to be done before the guests arrive? Try to lớn write three to five sentences.What vì you think is one of the most difficult jobs that exist? What kinds of tasks should be or have lớn be done as part of that job? Write at least a paragraph describing the job.Just remember: if modal verbs in the passive voice feel complicated, take them one at a time. You don’t need to lớn memorize them all now; You can just start with one or two.Feel không lấy phí to write your paragraph in the comments below, or just let us know if you found this post helpful!

About the Writer

Marta is an online ESL teacher who works with students from around the world. As a writer, language nerd, and content contributor for In English With Love, her mission is khổng lồ empower English learners with knowledge and positivity.