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Michael IELTS Band 9
Professional Teacher
Modal muddle: a question to test your knowledge of modal verbs

Andrew's dyslexia makes it hard for him to pass English exams. On his third attempt at the advanced exam, he was happy because he almost passed.  He call three of his friends and explained this to each of them. These were their reactions:  

a) John: "You should have worked harder."

b) Mary: "You must have worked hard."

c) Brian: "You should keep working hard."


Which friend gave him: 

1) sympathy

2) criticism

3) motivation?


Sep 15, 2016 5:11 PM
Comments · 11

I have a question about the sentences below:

-You could have taken her to the hospital.

-You should have taken her to the hospital.

If ''should have'' is used to criticize people, what is ''could have '' used for?

I would be grateful if you could help me with this.

September 16, 2016

a) John: "You should have worked harder."(criticism)



b) Mary: "You must have worked hard."(sympathy)


c) Brian: "You should keep working hard."(motivation)

I hope my answers are correct. 


September 15, 2016

a) John: "You should have worked harder." ---> criticism

b) Mary: "You must have worked hard."--->sympathy

c) Brian: "You should keep working hard."--->motivation


"You should have worked harder."  ----> in a harsh tone,  it means you had better have had worked harder to conquer the test

"You must have worked hard." ---> it is a pity even though you had worked so hard, you had not conquered the test

"You should keep working hard."--> You should keep working hard then soon afterwards, you can conquer the test.  (encouragement)





September 17, 2016

Hmano got everything right.  

Sudeep and Suade, if you would like to do some more study on modal forms, there are some excellent training materials on the Learn English British Council website.  It will take you a little time to master these forms.

Ocean 2 "could have taken" means here that it was possible for you to have taken her (but it is not possible any more) "Why didn't you do something to help her earlier?"

If the context was different e.g. you were talking about a friend (he) and not "you", then there is another possible meaning - it is possible that he has taken her to the hospital.  This is a modal of deduction.  She is ill but not at home.  He sometimes takes her to hospital when she is all. You don't know where either of them are. So you speculate: "he could have taken her to the hospital".  They are both at the hospital now. 


September 16, 2016

Nice useful lesson:)Let me try it--

a) John: "You should have worked harder."

It shows sympathy as "should" is used more politeness and when we show sympathy then we speak in a lower voice to make one console or to make aware of his/her past insufficiency.

b) Mary: "You must have worked hard."

Here it shows Criticism as must is used in a strong sense like if someone had told me of something to do but I didn't and in the end the result was below my expectation so in that situation that person can use "must"to criticise me like a saying in my language "use lime on my wound"

c) Brian: "You should keep working hard."

Here, it shows the motivation as "keep" is often used to motivate someone like --Keep it up,Keep going,you can do it etc.

Please correct me if I'm wrong somewhere.Thank you:)


September 16, 2016
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Michael IELTS Band 9
Language Skills
English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Learning Language
German, Italian