Past Modals / Modal Verbs in the Past. Speaking Activity

This speaking activity is part of a lesson on past modals / modal verbs in the past in our Upper-Intermediate-English Course. The grammar exercises for this topic are here.

Use these questions & activities to practise using modal verbs / past modals (must have, should have, can’t have etc…) to talk about the past.

Past Modals Speaking Activity Conversation Questions

Ask and answer the questions in pairs or groups.

  1. is there anything that you should have done today or this week that you haven’t done or didn’t do?
  2. Can you think of a time when something that you did didn’t go well. Could you have done anything differently?
  3. Talk about a time that you found something difficult and should have asked for help.
  4. Can you think of a time that you made a silly or obvious mistake that you could have easily avoided?
  5. Can you think of a decision that you made that you may have made differently if you had been better informed?
  6. What is something you should have learned from a past experience?
  7. Can you think of a time that you said something that you shouldn’t have said? For example in an argument.
  8. Could you have handled a difficult situation better if you had more experience?

Past Modals Speaking Activity Role Play Scenarios

In each of these scenarios, use past modals to give your advice about what the person could have done differently or what could have happened. The first one has an example answer.

Example Scenario

I dropped my shopping because i didn’t take a bag to the supermarket and I bought more than I could carry.

Example Suggestions: You should have taken a bag, or you could have bought less so that you could carry it. You could have bought a bag from the supermarket. You must have been crazy to try to carry it all without a bag.

Scenario 1. Hungry, Wet and Tired

I feel hungry, wet and tired! I went to bed late last night because I was reading social media. I woke up late because I didn’t set an alarm and I didn’t have time for breakfast! I missed the train. So I walked all the way here. It was raining and I didn’t have an umbrella or boots, so now I’m completely wet!

Scenario 2. A football Injury

I hurt my leg yesterday when I was playing football. I wasn’t wearing shin pads (protective leg coverings) I didn’t go to the hospital. This morning when I woke up my leg was all swollen and painful, now I can’t walk properly!

Scenario 3. The Cheat

Yesterday I did a test, I didn’t study at all, so when I got into the exam I realised that I didn’t know any of the answers. I panicked and tried to copy the answers from the person who was sitting in front of me. One of the teachers saw me and sent me out of the exam room. Now I may be expelled from the course!

Scenario 4. Losing Track of Time

Last week I bought a new watch from the town centre. I remember looking at it when I was waiting for the bus. When the bus came I put it in my pocket. The bus was very full. When I got home I put my hand in my pocket but my watch wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened to it. I paid cash. I’m really sad about the situation.