How to Use Must, Have to and Should - Modal Verbs Video (2023)

1. Must and Have To

Must and have to are both used to talk about obligations: things you cannot choose not to do.

For example:

  • We must talk to her before she leaves.
  • I have to go into work early tomorrow.

If you say, We must talk to her before she leaves, you mean that you think this is very important, and you need to do it.

When you say, I have to go into work early tomorrow, you mean that you have no choice.

These are both obligations, but they’re slightly different.

Can you see how they’re different?

The first obligation is more personal, which is why you use must. You feel that it’s necessary and important to talk to her before she leaves. The obligation comes from you and your feelings.

What about have to?

The second obligation is more situational, which is why you use have to. It’s necessary to go into work early tomorrow, maybe because you have to meet a client, or you have some important work to finish. The obligation comes from the situation, not from you.

Let’s see some more examples:

  • I must pay him back like I promised. –> You made a promise, and now it’s important to you personally to keep your promise and pay him back.
  • He has to do a lot of homework every week. –> He needs to do a lot of homework because the school gives him a lot of homework.

It’s rare to use must to talk about obligations in spoken English. Native English speakers use have to much more in conversation.

(Video) Modal Verbs - How to Use Must, Have to and Should - English Grammar Lesson

However, you can use must to talk about obligations in formal or written English. For example:

  • All passengers must have a valid ticket.
  • Candidates must arrive no later than five minutes before the scheduled start time.

Want an easy answer to this?

Here’s an easy answer: use have to when you speak.

Using must to talk about obligations can sound very formal and strange in spoken English. If you use have to when you speak, you’ll never be wrong!

You can use must to talk about obligations in your written English if you’re writing something more formal.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t hear must in conversation; actually, you’ll hear it a lot.

Why is this? Didn’t we just tell you not to use must in spoken English?

It’s because must has many other meanings, too. Using must to talk about obligations is rare in spoken English, but you can use it for many other things.

Okay, you’ve seen how must and have to are different. What about mustn’t and don’t have to?

2. Mustn’t and Don’t Have To

We just talked about must and have to. Isn’t this the same?

Not at all. Must and have to aren’t exactly the same, but they are quite similar. However, the negativesmustn’t and don’t have to—are completely different.

Look at two sentences:

  • Visitors must not touch the paintings.
  • You don’t have to be here before ten.

Can you tell the difference?

(Video) Must, Have to, and Should for Obligation and Advice in English

Must not means that something is forbidden. You are not allowed to do this.

If you’re in a museum, and the sign says Visitors must not touch the paintings, then don’t touch the paintings!

Don’t have to means that something is not necessary. You can choose to do something or not.

If we have plans, and I tell you, You don’t have to be here before ten, then you can be here before ten if you want. You can come at nine, at eight, or whenever you want. It’s your choice.

Let’s see some more examples:

  • Passengers must not talk to the driver while the bus is moving. –> It’s forbidden to talk to the driver while the bus is moving; you aren’t allowed to do this.
  • You don’t have to finish it today. –> You can finish it today if you want to, but you can also leave it until later if you want. It’s your choice.

Like must, must not is more common in formal or written English.

In spoken English, it’s more common to use can’t.

For example, you might see a sign saying:

  • Mobile phones must not be used while driving.

But, if you were talking, you’d probably say:

  • You can’t use your phone while you’re driving.

On the other hand, don’t have to is common in both spoken and written English.

So now you’ve seen the difference between must and have to, but what about should?

3. Must and Should

Remember that must and have to can be used to talk about obligations. Should is different.

(Video) English lesson - How to use modal verbs: MUST, HAVE TO and SHOULD

You use should to give advice or express your opinion. For example:

  • You should go to bed earlier. Then you wouldn’t feel so tired all the time. –> This is my advice. I think it’s better for you to do this, but it isn’t necessary. It’s not an obligation, so you still have a choice.
  • He should do more work if he wants to get promoted. –> This is my opinion. I don’t think he needs to do it, and I don’t necessarily care if he does this or not.

You can’t use should to talk about obligations or rules. When you say,

  • You should…

You mean that the person has a choice. You’re giving your opinion or some advice.

However, must can also be used to give advice. For example:

  • You must try the fish. It’s delicious!

Actually, you can also use have to to give advice. You could also say:

  • You have to try the fish. It’s delicious!

Can you tell the difference between using should to give advice, and using must or have to?

Giving advice with must or have to is stronger and more emphatic than giving advice with should.

If you say:

  • You should try the fish.

This sounds quite neutral, but if you say:

  • You must try the fish!
  • You have to try the fish!

These sound much stronger. You’re more excited about what you’re saying. You really like that fish!

So, you can use must, have to or should to give advice or express opinions.

Using must or have to expresses stronger feelings than just using should.

(Video) No more mistakes with MODALS! 3 Easy Rules

However, if you want to give negative advice, only shouldn’t is possible.

For example:

  • You shouldn’t eat so much chocolate at once—you’ll make yourself sick!
  • You shouldn’t take the job unless you’re sure it’s what you want.

In negative sentences, you can only use shouldn’t to give advice or express your opinion. You can’t use mustn’t or don’t have to with this meaning.

At this point, you’ve seen how to use must, have to and should to talk about obligations or advice.

Let’s put everything together by comparing all three verbs.

4. Must, Have To and Should

Use must for:

  • Obligations you feel strongly about: I must remember to send him a birthday card.
  • Obligations in formal, written English: All employees must wash hands.
  • Strong advice: You must read it—it’s an amazing story!
  • Saying something is forbidden, if you use mustn’t: Children must not be left unattended.

Remember that mustn’t or must not are more formal, and in spoken English it’s more common to say can’t.

Next, what about have to?

You use have to for:

  • Obligations which depend on rules or circumstances: I have to wear glasses because I can’t see so clearly.
  • Most obligations in spoken English: Do you have to work tomorrow?
  • Saying something is not necessary: You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.
  • Strong advice: You have to try this ice cream!

Using have to for strong advice sounds more conversational than using must.

Finally, should. You can use should for:

  • Giving advice: You should try once more—I’m sure you can get it.
  • Giving negative advice: You shouldn’t work so hard. Take a break sometimes!
  • Giving your opinion: If they make us work overtime, they should pay us for it.

One last point: these three verbs can also be used to talk about probability and certainty.

In this video, we focused on talking about obligations and giving advice, but these verbs can also be used in other ways.

(Video) Should, Must, Have To - Advanced English Grammar

So now you’ve seen how to use must, have to and should in different ways.

Thanks for watching! Keep practicing with other Oxford Online English lessons like this one: English Modal Verbs Guide.


How do you use must have to and should in modal verbs? ›

Remember that must and have to can be used to talk about obligations. Should is different. You use should to give advice or express your opinion.

What are the 3 rules for the use of modal verbs? ›

Grammar Rules for Modal Verbs
  • Questions are formed through inversion.
  • Modal verbs don't change to present or past tense.
  • Modal verbs don't add -s to third person singular forms.
  • Modal verbs are followed by the bare infinitive of the main verb - the form without "to."

What is the difference between must and have to and should? ›

What Is Their Main Difference? The main difference between 'have to,' 'must,' and 'should' is that 'must' and 'should' are modal verbs while 'have to' is a semi-modal verb.

How do you use must in modal verbs? ›

Must is a modal verb. It is followed by the base form of a verb. You use must to indicate that you think it is very important or necessary for something to happen. You use must not or mustn't to indicate that you think it is very important or necessary for something not to happen.

What are the 10 examples of shall? ›

Shall: forms
  • I shall post it to you tomorrow.
  • I shall have to be at the airport by 5 pm.
  • We shall have to tell him what happened.
  • The good news is I shall be able to join you at your meeting next week.

What is must and should in grammar rules? ›

Both "must" and "should" are model verbs. The term "must" is commonly used to express any unavoidable requirement or obligation. On the other hand, "should" is used as a probability, obligation, advice, recommendation, conditional, and exceptional mood.

Where do we use must? ›

We usually use must to talk about obligations which come from the speaker and we generally use have (got) to when we refer to obligations that come from outside the speaker. I must buy some new clothes. Mine look so old. The obligation is from me to buy new clothes.

What is the easiest way to learn modals? ›

10 Tricks That Will Help You Teach Modal Verbs
  1. Encourage Use of Modals. Getting the students to use modal verbs in speech shouldn't be too difficult. ...
  2. Point Out Mistakes. ...
  3. Practice and Repeat. ...
  4. Fill in the Blanks Exercise. ...
  5. Advice Column. ...
  6. Tell a Story. ...
  7. Travel Tips. ...
  8. Asking for Directions Role Play.

Can we use must and should in one sentence? ›

She must look for a new job. She should look for a new job.

How do you use I must in a sentence? ›

How To Use MUST
  1. Examples: I must work hard on my English! ...
  2. Pupils must not run in the corridors. (note: here, 'must' expresses a school rule.)
  3. Examples: I must admit, it was a frightening experience. ...
  4. I must say, this food is delicious! (note: in this sentence, we would not say 'I must admit, this food is delicious!

What is the example of must to? ›

We often use must to say that something is essential or necessary, for example: I must go.
Look at these examples:
  • I must stop smoking.
  • You must visit us soon.
  • He must work harder.

Shall I or should I? ›

'Shall' is used more in formal writing than 'should'. The word 'should' is used to give suggestions/advice. It's also used when one is talking about probable situations. 'Should' is the past tense of 'shall'.

What modal verb is shall? ›

"Shall" is a modal verb used to indicate future action. It is most commonly used in sentences with "I" or "we," and is often found in suggestions, such as "Shall we go?" "Shall" is also frequently used in promises or voluntary actions.

What are the words shall and must? ›

'Shall', 'must' and 'will' are all modal verbs (verbs used to express an obligation).

Which tense is used with must? ›

When indirect speech is introduced by a verb in the past tense, must can be used as a past tense: She said that I must come immediately. There is no future tense, but must can be used for saying that someone should do something in the future: You must be here at nine o'clock tomorrow morning.

What are the 12 examples of modal verbs? ›

There are twelve words: be, do, have, can, may, shall, will, must, ought, used (to), need, dare.

What are the 13 modal verbs with examples? ›

Modal Verbs are can, may, shall, will, must, ought to, used to, need, and dare. Can, may, shall, and will have special past forms could, might, should, and would respectively, but 'must' do not.
Types of Modal Verbs.
Modal Auxiliary VerbsFunctions asExamples
Used tohabitual action in the pastMy mother used to tell me moral stories.
12 more rows

What is the strongest modal verb? ›

Must is the strongest and most serious modal verb of the three and is most common in writing. It is unusual to use “must” in questions.

What are common mistakes with modals? ›

The four common types of errors when using modals include the following: using an infinitive instead of a base verb after a modal, using a gerund instead of an infinitive or a base verb after a modal, using two modals in a row, and leaving out a modal.

What are the most common 4 modal verbs? ›

The main modal verbs in English are: can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, will and would. Often the same modal verb can be used with different functions. There are some important things to remember about modal verbs. Firstly, they do not inflect, by which I mean, they do not add -s, -ing, -ed etc.

What are 5 simple sentences of must? ›

Must Sentence Examples
  • We must not be late. 2064. 536.
  • She must be very uneasy about you. 2140. ...
  • You must be mistaken. 1377. ...
  • That must make you about five years old. 1035. ...
  • He must have changed clothes during the night. 1058. ...
  • But you must help me. 569. ...
  • You must be starving. 483. ...
  • That must have been really difficult for you. 582.

What is the rule for must in a sentence? ›

Must is used to express obligation, give orders and give advice. It can only be used for present and future reference. When the past is involved, you use have to.

What are the 3 types of modal verbs? ›

The three categories of modals are Epistemic (relating to speculation), Deontic (relating to ideals or regulations), and Dynamic (relating to performance).

What are all the three modals? ›

Modal Verbs
  • Modal verbs for ability - can, could.
  • Modal verbs for possibility - may, could, can, might.
  • Modal verbs for obligation - should, must, have to, cannot.
  • Modal verbs for necessity - need, must.

What are 3 of the modal auxiliaries we use for advice? ›

English speakers use the modal verbs “should,” “ought to” and “had better” to express that they think something is a good (or a bad) idea. “Should” is the most common way to give advice.

What is the rule of modal verb? ›

For basic sentences—in the simple present tense—just remember these rules: Modal verbs come directly before the main verb except for in questions. With modal verbs, use the infinitive form of the main verb. With most but not all modal verbs, to is dropped from the infinitive.

What are the 8 common uses of modals? ›

You use them to express certainty, ability, willingness, necessity, permission, obligation, advice, and possibility.

What are the 24 modal verbs? ›

24 Auxiliary Verbs List
Primary Auxiliary VerbsBe Verb: is, am, are, was, were, been, being Have Verb: have, has, had, having Do Verb: do, does, did
Modal Auxiliary Verbscan, could, shall, should, will, would, may, might, must, dare, need, used to, ought to
Nov 7, 2022

What are the 7 common modals? ›

The nine most common modals are can, could, shall, should, will, would, may, might, and must.

What is the full list of modal verbs? ›

There are nine modal auxiliary verbs: shall, should, can, could, will, would, may, must, might. There are also quasi-modal auxiliary verbs: ought to, need to, has to.

What are the most popular modal verbs? ›

The principal English modal verbs are can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, and must. Certain other verbs are sometimes classed as modals; these include ought, had better, and (in certain uses) dare and need.

What are 4 examples of modal auxiliary verb? ›

Ans: The examples of modal auxiliary verbs are: May, Might, Must, Can, Could, Shall, Should, Will, Would and ought to.

What are the 10 major modal auxiliaries? ›

There are ten main modal auxiliaries in English: can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must, and ought to.

What are 15 modal auxiliaries examples? ›

Modal Auxiliaries Examples: Modal Auxiliaries or helping verbs help in expressing possible, probable, certain actions, duties or obligations. They also express actions which are permissible to do. Can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should, need, must, ought, used to are some important modal auxiliaries.


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