English as a Second Language/Modals

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Question
Dear Shannon,

What is the best way to determine when to use "must", "should", "ought to" or "have to" in exam questions/exercises, especially that almost all of them can be used interchangeably?

Suppose you are teaching a student in grade 9. What shall you do?

Highly appreciate your guideline.

Best regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

Answer
Unfortunately, that requires a lot more space than what is allotted here.  Let me point you to some sites that can help you in detail with this:

http://www.onestopenglish.com/support/ask-the-experts/grammar-questions/grammar-
http://www.5minuteenglish.com/jul14.htm
http://www.grammarbank.com/should-have-must-have.html
http://www.grammar-quizzes.com/modal3.html
http://www.english-test.net/forum/ftopic2438.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9E_3kWQVWY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv7_fRvXaKA
http://www.english4all.pro.br/Intermmodals.htm
http://www.englishpage.com/modals/should.html


These resources should be a great starting point.  I don't recommend teaching all the modals at once, especially to a 9th grader.  It will just cause great confusion.  Instead, spend time with examples and practice of each modal, then you can approach a multiple choice question cautiously (and yes, sometimes all of the choices are possible.  In some exams, they try to be tricky and you'll need to find a very specific response).

You ____ go tomorrow.
a. must
b. should
c. ought to
d. have to

In this case all are correct. The only difference is between a&d and b&c.

English as a Second Language

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Shannon Cole

Expertise

I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.

Experience

I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Organizations
I am owner and operator of www.coleinstitute.com, an online language school.

Publications
Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

Education/Credentials
B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

Past/Present Clients
I have clients worldwide, some who want their documents proofread, and others who take lessons with me through the Internet. Some work at high-profile companies and government organizations. Besides the U.S. and Mexico, my recent students come from South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Paraguay, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

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