Speaking Activity: It must have been written by … (Past Modals)

ESL Level: Upper-Intermediate to Advanced

Grammar Focus: Modals for speculating about the past

Time required: 15 minutes

No. of Students: 6-20

Materials: one slip of blank paper for each student


Activity Description

This is a short activity to use after teaching  modals of past speculation (must have, could have, might have, may have).

First, give each student a blank slip of paper. On the paper, ask them to write 3 things such as (you can change these):

  1. what they did last saturday night
  2. their favourite book or movie
  3. the most recent thing they ate

Get them just to write the answers, e.g. “Stayed at home, Harry Potter, Curry rice”, on the paper. They should not write their name.

Next, collect the papers and redistribute them to different students. Have them read their cards, and then guess (speculate) who must/may/might/could have written it. For example, “This must have been written by a Japanese student because his or her favourite movie is Raputa. I think it may have been written by Kenji” (or Kenji may have written it.)

I’ve done this activity twice. Students enjoy trying to speculate based on handwriting and the answers.

– Matthew Barton / Creator: Englishcurrent.com

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3 comments on “Speaking Activity: It must have been written by … (Past Modals)

  1. Mariem (Posted on 12-10-2014 at 05:17) Reply

    Excellent activity.

  2. Tanya Kamon (Posted on 4-27-2015 at 21:23) Reply

    This is a fabulous exercise for all levels of students. My intermediate and advanced English classes will definitely enjoy it. And get the full benefits of the lesson too. Thank you!

  3. Anonymous (Posted on 10-15-2019 at 07:53) Reply

    excelent idea

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