Modal verbs – pouvoir, devoir, vouloir

These are useful verbs that are always followed by an infinitive. They are usually used in the present, imperfect, past tense with a past participle or in the conditional tense.

pouvoir – means can/to be able to

  • je peux aller à la fête - I can go to the party
  • je pouvais/j’ai pu aller à la fête -I was able to go to the party
  • je pourrais aller à la fête - I would be able to go to the party

devoir - means have to/must or on the conditional ought to/should

  • il doit jouer au foot - he must play football
  • il devait/a dû jouer au foot - he had to play football
  • il devrait jouer au foot - he ought to play football

vouloir – means want/wish

  • on veut boire du café - we want to drink coffee
  • on voulait/a voulu boire du café - we wanted to drink coffee
  • on voudrait boire du café - we would like to drink coffee