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Modal Verbs of Obligation and Prohibition - ESL EFL Teaching Resources

David's Day

ESL EFL Writing Activity - Elementary - 20 Minutes

Teach your students how to express obligation using have to and has to with this useful worksheet. Students write sentences about what David has to do, according to the items on his desk and a list of verbs and nouns. The students then write sentences about what they have to do today.

David's Day.PDF


The Modal Hotel

ESL EFL Writing and Speaking Activity - Elementary - 35 Minutes

In this teaching activity, students make rules for guests and staff in a hotel using modal verbs of obligation and prohibition. To start the activity, the class is separated into groups of three. The groups are told they have just taken over the management of a hotel. The groups then decide what the rules are going to be in their hotel using the modal verbs: must, mustn't, have to, don't have to, can and can't. When all the groups have finished writing their rules, they compare their sentences and discuss any different or unusual rules they have discovered.

The Modal Hotel.PDF


Where is it?

ESL EFL Writing and Speaking Activity - Elementary - 35 Minutes

In this creative teaching activity, pairs of students are given a place to describe using modal verbs. The students write five sentences using modal verbs of obligation and prohibition to describe the place on their card. When everyone has finished writing, the students take it in turns to present their sentences to the class. The class then tries to guess the place described by each pair.

Where is it.PDF


Class Contracts

ESL EFL Reading and Writing Activity - Pre-intermediate - 30 Minutes

Here is a light-hearted teaching activity that incorporates modal verbs of obligation. In this teaching activity, groups of students write an imaginary contract for their teacher. The class is separated into small groups. Each group is handed a student contract and a blank teacher contract. The students read through the student contract, and then the teacher goes through the use of the modal verbs of obligation in the contract. Afterwards, the students write a teacher contract that includes all the rules and regulations they think a teacher should follow. The contract shouldn't be too serious. Instead, the students are encouraged to create an amusing or imaginative set of rules. When all the groups have finished, each group reads out their teacher contract to the class. The teacher and the students sign each contract as it's presented.

Class Contracts.PDF


Job Descriptions

ESL EFL Reading, Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 20 Minutes

In this ESL activity, students have to guess a job from clues that contain expressions of obligation and prohibition (must, mustn't, have to, don't have to). The class is divided into pairs and each pair is given a set of clue cards. The first student picks up a card and reads out the clues, one at a time. There are six clues for each job, the first clue is fairly difficult and the last clue is quite easy. After listening to each clue, their partner guesses what the job could be. If the guess is incorrect, the first student reads out the next clue, and so on. When the second student guesses correctly, he or she gets the number of points indicated next to the clue. The second student then picks up a new card and starts reading out the clues and so on. The winner is the student with the most points.

Job Descriptions.PDF


How to...

ESL EFL Writing Activity - Pre-intermediate - 30 Minutes

In this fun pairwork activity, students practice modal verbs of obligation for describing different situations. The teacher starts the activity by writing 'How to pass an exam' on the board. Then, under the sentence, the teacher writes the modal verbs of obligation: You have to... You mustn't... You should... You don't have to... You must... You shouldn't... The students give examples to complete each sentence. Next, the students are split into pairs and given six 'How to' cards. The students are then given another 'How to' situation. The pairs race to write six sentences expressing obligation for the given situation using the modal verbs. As soon as a pair has finished their sentences, they read out their sentences to the class. If their sentences are correctly formed and match the situation, they win the round. Six rounds are played in all.

How to....PDF


Modal Verbs of Obligation Exercise

ESL EFL Writing Activity- Pre-intermediate - 20 Minutes

Here is a link to a supplementary worksheet for teaching modal verbs of obligation. First, students read through the different uses for modal verbs of obligation, prohibition and recommendation. The students are then shown 12 gap fill sentences. They decide which type of modal verb goes in each sentence. After that, they write their own example sentences.

Modal Verbs of Obligation Exercise.PDF

My Perfect World

ESL EFL Writing and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 25 Minutes

In this interesting activity, students write and discuss how people must and mustn't behave in a perfect world. The resource teaches students to use the modal verbs must for obligation and mustn't for prohibition. Students invent a list of instructions for how they would like people to behave in their perfect world. When everyone has finished writing, students go round the class and find other students who have written the same instructions for their perfect world.

My Perfect World.PDF

 ESL Modal Verbs of Obligation and Prohibition

Must and Have to

ESL EFL Writing Activity - Pre-intermediate - 25 Minutes

The link below will take you to a worksheet that helps to teach your students about have to and must to express obligation. The worksheet begins with a grammar review. Then, students complete three writing exercises using must and have to in affirmative and negative statements and questions. 

Must and Have to.PDF


Obligation Game

ESL EFL Writing and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 25 Minutes

This is an enjoyable game for practicing modal verbs of obligation. Students practice making sentences expressing things people must do or be if they want to be successful in a particular job. The class is broken up into small teams. The teacher writes a job on the board. Teams then have five minutes to write down as many You must ... sentences as they can. The sentences have to express things people must do or be if they want to be successful in that particular kind of work. After the five minutes are up, the teams check each other's sentences. Each team gets one point for each appropriate sentence. Further rounds are played using other modal verbs of obligation, e.g. You should... and different jobs. The team with the most points at the end is the winner.

Obligation Game.PDF


School Rules

ESL EFL Writing Activity - Pre-intermediate - 25 Minutes

In this productive writing activity, students make sentences expressing obligation and prohibition using can, can't, have to and don't have to. The sentences are all about school rules for a new student. The class is divided into pairs and each pair is given a copy of the worksheet. On the worksheet, twelve sentences have been split into three parts and mixed up. The students must join the three parts of each sentence together and then write out the sentences. The first pair to complete all the sentences correctly is the winner.

School Rules.PDF


Should Survey

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 20 Minutes

You can use this appealing speaking exercise to teach students how to use should and shouldn't for obligation and prohibition. Students circulate, asking for classmates' opinions on what people should and shouldn't do. They ask each other yes/no questions with should, e.g. Should people eat meat? Then, the students fill in a survey with the results.

Should Survey.PDF


10 Rules for English Class

ESL EFL Writing and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 45 Minutes

In this teaching activity, students write ten rules for English class using modal verbs of obligation and prohibition. The students also explain the reasons for the rules. Afterwards, they read their rules out to the class.

10 Rules for English Class.PDF


What do you think?

ESL EFL Reading and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 25 Minutes

This noteworthy pairwork activity will teach students how they can use modal verbs of obligation and prohibition. It also gives students practice at justifying their opinions. Students are paired off and each given a worksheet. The students give their opinion on ten statements. They also have to guess their partner’s opinion. Students then compare their answers and see how many of their predictions are correct. The students try to justify their opinions, particularly when they don’t agree with each other.

What do you think.PDF


When you were a child

ESL EFL Speaking Activity - Intermediate - 25 Minutes

In this insightful speaking task, students ask and answer questions about what they were and weren’t allowed to do when they were a child. This teaching activity gives students practice at talking about permission, obligation and prohibition in the past. Each student is given a question card. The students find the answer to the question on their card by speaking to everybody in their group. Each student makes notes on their classmates' answers. When everyone has finished, the students report back on what their classmates were and weren’t allowed to do. As an extension, students can write about the information they have gathered.

When you were a child.pdf


Related Teaching Resources: Asking Permission and Making Requests  /  Modal Verbs of Ability

                                                Modal Verbs of Possibility, Certainty and Necessity 

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