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I.

Verbs of Necessity and Obligation

Tener que + infinitive is one way to express obligation or necessity. This expression can
be translated as "someone has to do something." Tener is conjugated according to the
subject of the sentence.
Tengo que comer las verduras.
I have to eat the vegetables.
ngel tiene que leer el peridico.
ngel has to read the newspaper.
Ellos tienen que comprar una revista.
They have to buy a magazine.
Hay que + infinitive is used to express the idea of "one must do something" or, "it is
necessary to do something." It is a more general expression and since there is no
subject, the verb form hay is always used.
Hay que tomar un taxi.
It is necessary to take a taxi.
Hay que estudiar mucho.
One must study a lot.
These examples illustrate the contrasting uses of these two expressions:
Mara tiene un examen el lunes. Ella tiene que estudiar.
Mara has a test on Monday. She has to study.
No es fcil aprender el espaol. Hay que practicar mucho.
It isn't easy to learn Spanish. It is necessary to practice a lot.
II.

Modal Verbs

Modal verbs are different to regular verbs and are used in an auxiliary way to indicate
modality: likelihood, ability, permission, or obligation. Spanish modal verbs work
differently to regular Spanish verbs in that another verb follows them in its base form.
The same is true in English with English modal verbs. For example, with I can swim
(puedo nadar) we have the verb Can immediately followed by the verb Swim in its
base form. In English the verb Can is a very easy verb to conjugate as it is the same for
all persons, but in Spanish el verbo Poder changes a lot according to the person. Dont

forget, though, that the second verb always stays in its base form you dont have to
conjugate both verbs.
So, first lets see how to conjugate el verbo Poder (Can) for all persons:
(Yo) Puedo: I can
(T) Puedes: You can (friendly)
(Usted) Puede: You can (formal)
(l/ella) Puede: He/She can
(Nosotros/as) Podemos: We can
(Vosotros/as) Podis: You can (group/friendly)
(Ustedes) Pueden: You can (group/formal)
(Ellos/as) Pueden: They can
Next, lets see some examples using the Spanish verb Poder (Can) and some
expressions of obligation using the other modal verbs that we have already looked at in
this course: Tener que and Deber:
Quieres ir al cine esta noche?: Would you like to go to the cinema this evening?
(friendly)
No puedo porque tengo que estudiar: I cant because I have to study
No, es que tengo que estudiar: No, I have to study
Queris comer en un restaurante con nosotros? Would you like to have lunch in a
restaurant with us? (group/friendly)
No podemos porque debemos limpiar la casa: We cant because we must clean the
house
No, es que debemos limpiar la casa: No, we must clean the house
Quiere jugar al tenis conmigo maana?: Would you like to play tennis with me
tomorrow? (formal)
No puedo porque tengo que trabajar: I cant because I have to work
No, es que tengo que trabajar. No, I have to work
Queris hablar con l?: Would you like to speak to him? (group/friendly)
No podemos porque tenemos que ir a casa: We cant because we have to go home
No, es que tenemos que ir a casa: No, we have to go home
Quieres viajar a Madrid este verano?: Would you like to travel to Madrid this
summer? (friendly)
No puedo porque no tengo dinero: I cant because I havent got any money
No, es que no tengo dinero: No, I havent got any money
Quiere venir conmigo?: Would you like to come with me? (formal)
No puedo porque debo trabajar: I cant because I must work
No, es que debo trabajar: No, I must work