We call semi-modal verbs the ones that are used BOTH
as modal verbs AND as main verbs.
Those are the following: be able to, have to/don't have
to, need (to), dare (to)
Let's see now how they are used !
Be able to + infinitive
Ability (in all simple tenses)
Note: We use it to talk about ability in the past especially
in affirmative and interrogative/question where could
cannot be used.
e.g. I am not able to drive a car.
Were you able to do your homework?
I was able to finish the project on time.
When I was a baby,...(lack of
ability in the past)
Ability in the Past
What else were you able to do at the
Ability in the Future! What will you
be able to do?
Have to + infinitive
Obligation (can be used in all simple tenses
instead of must)
e.g. I have to tidy my room this weekend.
I had to go shopping with mum on
Not have to + infinitive
To show that something is unnecessary (used
in all simple tenses)
e.g. Mum, I don't have to study today. It's
I didn't have to go to school yesterday .
Role play between an employer and an employee! You
haven't been a good employee and your boss is about to
fire you. Use have to and not have to!
Needn't, don't/doesn't need to
To show that something is unnecessary
Note: As a main verb it is followed by an infinitive with
e.g. I need to speak to Tom.
BUT as a modal verb it is followed by an infinitive
without to and is NOT used in the affirmative.
e.g. Need she check this report?
You needn't come with me.
BE CAREFUL !
e.g. Need we buy more food?
Yes, we must.
OR No, you needn't. (NOT : Yes, we need.)
Must I explain it again?
Yes, you must.
No, you needn't/don't have to. (NOT: No, you
Didn't need to + infinitive
To show that something was unnecessary and
didn't happen in the past
e.g. She didn't need to take a taxi because
she had her own car. (She didn't take a
Needn't have + past participle
To show that something was unnecessary in
the past but it happened
You needn't have brought any bread. I've
already bought some. (She brought bread !)
Santa,...it wasn't necessary...How
else could you say that?
To show that someone is (not) afraid of something
As a main verb, it is followed by an infinitive with to in the
affirmative. In the negative and interrogative to is
e.g. He is a man who dares to fight for his rights.
He doesn't dare (to) ask for more money.
Do you dare (to) be honest with him?
As a modal verb it is followed by an infinitive without
to and is not usually used in the affirmative.
e.g. I daren't tell him it was my fault.
Dare she deal with them alone?
ALSO: How dare you say that to me?
Mum, can I start wearing make-up?
Don't you dare !
Worth knowing !
Need and dare are usually used as main verbs in American
Expressions similar to modal verbs:
be + to + infinitive ( e.g. These are to be sent today)
be supposed + to + infinitive ( e.g. You were supposed to
bring it back on Monday. )
be likely + to + infinitive (e.g. She is likely to be back
Role play ! You have just found out your friend has lied
to you about something important . Use as many modals
as you can ! Two teams on board and the winner is the
one which used the most modals.