‘Remember’ is a confusing verb because learners get confused with infinitives and gerunds (~ing verbs behaving as nouns).

Remember + noun phrase

The easiest way of using ‘remember’ is with nouns or noun phrases.

I remember you.

I remember the time we went to the zoo.

Remember + infinitive

When an infinitive follows remember it refers to an uncompleted action (or an action not yet begun).

I must remember to post that letter tomorrow.

Did you remember to buy milk?

Remember + gerund

This refers to a completed action in one’s memory.

I can’t remember locking the door. I hope I did it.

I remember visiting Spain every time I drink sangria.

You can also use the present perfect after ‘remember’ by using ‘having’ followed by the participle form of the main verb.

I remember having sent the letter because I sent my mother’s birthday card at the same time.

Do you remember having read the play at school we went to the theater to watch Blood Brothers?

Modal verbs: Have, Must, Need and Ought


Today I’m going to give a a quick guide to the modal verbs ‘ought’, ‘must’ and ‘need’. For other modals, see last week’s post.

  • Have to

  • ‘Have to’ is used to indicate an obligation. It is weaker than ‘must’.

    “I have to go to the dentist at one o’ clock today.”

    “Don’t you have to finish your homework?”

    ‘Don’t have to’ or ‘haven’t got to’ is used to say that an action is unnecessary. One may do the action but if one does not, it is acceptable.

    “You’re a guest. You don’t have to wash the dishes.”

    “I haven’t got to do anything tonight so do you want to watch the telly?”

    In its positive form, ‘have to’ can be used to speculate.

    “It has to be minus ten degrees outside today. I’m freezing.”

    “You have to be serious about passing that test. You haven’t stopped studying for four hours.”

  • Must

  • Must is used to indicate a strong obligation. It is not a recommendation. It is extremely strong and can appear impolite or bossy if used in the wrong situation. It is much stronger than ‘have to’.

    “I must get up early tomorrow. I have so much work to do.”

    “You must come out with us tonight. It will be so much fun.” (This is not rude; it is a strong invitation.)

    In its negative form, ‘must not’ or ‘mustn’t’, it is used to say that something is forbidden. ‘Must not’ has a very different meaning to ‘don’t have to’ or ‘haven’t got to’.

    “You must not put knives and forks in the microwave.”

    “You mustn’t be late because the teacher is very strict about that.”

    However, both positive and negative forms of ‘must’ are used for speculation, that is guessing about situations.

    “A lot of people are carrying umbrellas. It must be raining.”

    “She hasn’t eaten a thing. She mustn’t be hungry or she must hate my cooking.”

  • Need to

  • ‘Need to’ is used for strong obligation. It is slightly weaker than ‘must’ but stronger than ‘have to’.

    “I am going to go home now. I need to do my homework.”

    “Do you need to do it tonight?”

    In its negative forms, ‘do not need to’, ‘need not’ or ‘needn’t’, it indicates that an action is unnecessary like ‘don’t have to.’

    “I needn’t study tonight. The test isn’t until next week.”

    “I don’t need to wash the car today. It’s going to rain later.”

  • Ought to

  • ‘Ought to’ is used to strongly recommend actions. It often sounds formal. It is stronger than ‘should‘.

    “You ought to study English every day. You’ll get better quickly.”

    ‘Ought not (to)’ or ‘oughtn’t’ is used to strongly recommend against doing actions. It also sounds formal. Again, it is stronger than ‘shouldn’t

    “You oughtn’t study while listening to music.”

    “There is no fine for returning books to the library late but you ought not to do it because other students may be waiting for the books.”

Assume, Presume and Suppose


All three words are similar and can confuse even native speakers. Here is a quick guide.

Assume is used to guess and it is often, but not always, used to indicate a lack of knowledge about the situation.

“I assume he was at the pub because he wasn’t at home last night.”

Presume is used to indicate that you are making a guess about something and that you may change your mind after you get more information.

“I shall presume he is innocent until proven guilty.”

Suppose is the least formal and most common of these verbs. It is used for guesses and also as a weakened way to say ‘think’ when making suggestions.

“I suppose it will take a long time to drive from London to Edinburgh.”

“I suppose we should take the train instead.”

Modal verbs: Shall, Should, Will, Would, Can & Could


Modal verbs cause students a lot of problems. In this post, I hope to make them a lot clearer for you.

There are other modal verbs not included in today’s post. I’ll write about them next week.

  • Shall and Should

  • ‘Shall’ is used to talk about the future. It is used to talk about yourself or your group. It often sounds formal.

    “I shall be late to the party.” (formal)

    “What shall we wear, black tie or casual?” (formal and informal)

    “In the event of both parties’ dissatisfaction this contract shall be terminated by mutual agreeement.” (formal, written)

    ‘Should’ is used to talk about a weak obligation, or something that is a good idea to do.

    “He should do his homework but it’s sunny outside.”

    It can also be used with ‘think’ to give your opinion, usually criticism, in a strong formal way.

    “I should think you had better practise English more and talk less about the idea of practising.”

    It can be used in third-conditional sentences and questions, too.

    “If you were going to stay at their home, you should have taken a present for them.”

  • Will and Would

  • ‘Will’ is often used for the future tense, and is used to talk about something you plan to do, usually decided at the time of speaking. It is used for talking about yourself and also others. It is more informal than ‘shall’. In spoken English it usually becomes ”ll’; ‘will not’ usually becomes ‘won’t’

    “I’ll get home at seven o’ clock. I won’t work late.”

    “Will you buy some milk at the supermarket on the way home?”

    ‘Would’ is used to talk about past habits.

    “I would often visit the cinema on Friday nights.”

    It is also used for conditional sentences and questions.

    “If I won the lottery I don’t know what I would do.”

    It is used to talk about behaviour, usually with ‘if I were you’.

    “I wouldn’t do that (if I were you). It’s dangerous.”

    It is also used to talk about requests in a mild, formal manner.

    “What would you like?”

    I’d like the steak, please.

  • Can and Could

  • ‘Can’ is used for present ability.

    “I can run 100 metres in 100 seconds.”

    It is also used informally for requests.

    “Can you lend me a pound for the vending machine, please?”

    ‘Could’ is used to talk about past abilities or abilities that started in the past.

    “I could play ‘Stairway to Heaven’ when I was twelve. Jimmy Page didn’t write it until he was twenty seven.”

    It is used for slightly formal requests. It is more formal than ‘can’.

    “Could you please turn the music down?”

    It can also be used with conditionals.

    “Dad could help you with your homework if you washed his car.”

I hope this helps you. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

Stop to Think About Whether You Need to Stop Thinking

Stop Sign

Stop sign –

How to use ‘stop’ with another verb is difficult to remember for some students but there is an easy way to remember how to use it correctly.

Stop + infinitive

Using ‘stop’ with the infinitive (i.e. ‘stop to…’) means pausing because there is another different action that the person or thing does.

I had to stop to think about which way to go.

Will you stop to pick up some milk on the way home?

Stop + gerund

Using stop with a gerund (‘stop something) is generally used to talk about quitting something.

The doctor told him to stop smoking.

I need to stop working so hard.


Sometimes, using ‘’ verbs that are not gerunds but continuous verbs make things difficult. If the ‘~ing’ does not come at the end of the clause or is not followed by a noun phrase then you may have a case like the one below, which is stop + infinitive.

I had to stop cooking to answer the telephone.

In infinitive forms, ‘and’ often replaces ‘to’.

I had to stop and think about which way to go.

I hope you don’t need to stop to think too much about how to use this verb in the future.

Those tricky transitive verbs

A lot of people have problems with using transitive verbs correctly. I often hear things like the following errors:

I didn’t enjoy.

Yes, I like.

He needs.

The reason these are wrong is that they are transitive verbs. This just means that they need an object to make sense. Some of the biggest sources of mistakes are:

ask, bring, buy, close, cut, do, enjoy, get, hate, like, love, need, push, pull, say, tell, and want.

These are all transitive in active use (they have a subject and take an object) and in passive they become intransitive.


I asked Marc. (ask is transitive)

Marc was asked. (ask is intransitive)

One way to find out how to use these verbs is to read, and check the sentence the verbs appear in. Does the verb have a subject? Does it have an object? Would the sentence be clear without the object? Take notes and remember.