Passive Voice with Modals, Definition and Examples

English Using Passive Voice with Modals, Definition and Examples


English Using Passive Voice with Modals, Definition and Examples

In construction of appropriate sentences, many times we’re wrong because we can not find the right word. This is where modals come in. We use verbs according to the requirements of the actions that we want to describe. The main verb describes the action but modals are helping verbs, helping to improve the sentence by communicating much more than the main verb alone.

Modal verbs normally precede the main verb and provide additional information about the function of the main verb. The modals cannot be used alone and they always appear with a main verb.


There are only a few modals that are used as helping verbs. Here they are: can, could, may, might, will, would, must, shall, should, ought to. Modal verbs are commonly used in sentences in passive voice. The form is similar to the form it acquires in respect of other verbs. There is a general rule for sentences using modals in passive voice is:

  • Object + must, may, could, can, ought to, should + be + past participle of main verb (third form) in an affirmative sentence. 


Just as in other cases, when the sentence is in question form, the modal appears first:

  • Must, may, can, should, might + object + be + past participle of main verb (third form).


Negative sentences take the same form with ‘not’ inserted in between the modal and the main verb.



Passive voice for modals in present and future tenses take this form:

modal + be + past participle.


For instance, 

  • Trees should not be cut down, it is very important issue. This is a sentence following the ‘be’ form.


Passive voice for modals in past tense takes this form:

modal + have been + past participle.


For instance, 

  • Phones should not have been used while driving. This is a sentence following the ‘have been’ form.

Here is modal verbs and example sentences in passive voice;

Modal Concept Example
Would have Past unreal action If I had guessed the future, I would have taken some precautions againist what would happen.
Could have Past unreal ability He could have taken the flight.
May have Past unreal possibility We may have passed the math exam, but it was in Spanish.
Might have Past unreal small probability You might have sold the car., if you really needed the Money.
Should have Past unreal recommendation You should have listened to the teacher.
Must have Past unreal assumption We must have been crazy!