Grammar games: advice, obligation, prohibition

These 3 games provide some extra speaking practice when discussing functions of such verbs as: should, shouldn’t, must,  have to, and not have to to express advice, obligation, and prohibition. It is a good idea for pre-intermediate and intermediate students, adults and teenagers alike.

The Task

#1 Group speaking game

Cut up the Situation cards and distribute one stack per group / pair of students. Students take turns picking one card and they have to react to the situation accordingly, using appropriate words such as should/ shouldn’t/ must/ mustn’t/ have to/ not have to. They get a point for each correct sentence.Their partner(s) should make sure the sentence is correct / logical before awarding the speaker with a point.


Situation: You are going to your best friend’s wedding.

Sentence: You should buy a present/ You have to wear nice clothes/ You mustn’t be late.

#2 Dice game

Cut up the Situation cards and distribute one stack per group / pair of students. Assign each word to a number on the dice: 1 = should, 2= shouldn’t etc. Students take turns picking up situation cards and rolling the dice. They need to react to the situation accordingly using the word they rolled.


Situation: You are going to your best friend’s wedding. Number rolled: 2, which means shouldn’t

Sentence: You shouldn’t arrive late.

#3 Guessing game

Cut up the Situation cards and distribute one stack per group / pair of students. Students divide the cards equally. Students take turns to put forward 2 or 3 cards facing up so that their partner(s) can read them. They describe only one situation, using appropriate words. The others must guess which situation is being described. Whoever guesses first, collects the card and gets a point. The other card put forward by the students goes back to his pile.


Cards put forward: You are going to your best friend’s wedding.     You are planning a trip to Asia.

Student’s description: You must take your passport

Correct answer: You are planning a trip to Asia.


For more grammar practice see Conditional structures fun activities.

Personal Experience

I have been playing these games with many different groups or individual students very often leaving the written exercises for homework. They were a great opportunity for students to gain confidence when using the keywords and created a lot of opportunities for some new, relevant language to emerge. I tried to make the situations as relatable to my students as possible so that they could use their real life experience and opinions when coming up with the sentences. I have also noticed that, on many occasions, these activities have helped to clear doubts regarding must vs have to. 


  1. I’ll use your cards for sure. I’ve done similar activities before except the guessing game which seems to be great 🙂

    • The idea is to use modal verbs to illustrate the meaning of the situation from the card. There are two cards put on the table, but only one is being described so that students need to guess/choose the right situations using modal verbs they hear as clues. If I say “You should take a passport” it points to the situation card “You are planning a trip to Asia.” Hope that helps!

  2. This website is extremely useful! thank you very much 🙂 It has given me lots of good ideas for warm-ups and starters, which we usually run out of after many lessons on a row.

    • Hi Cira, thanks for your comment. I’m happy my website has made your teaching life a bit easier 🙂

  3. Thanks! Your ideas are great! I’ll try to use it in my class and give you feedback later.

    • Thank you, Cris! Please, let me know how the classes go. Hope you have fun!

  4. This is a wonderful activity! Do you know roughly how long each version might take?

    • Hi Claire, so glad you like this activity. I think each version of this game might take around 15-20mins tops, depending on how well your students deal with the lamguage.

  5. It was very nice , I used the situations to play a kind of charades too.. I divided the groupin two , and one person had to act out the situation.. it was fun 🙂
    JC .. Costa Rica

  6. thank you, I’ve used a few of your lesson plans and find them very helpful

  7. I’ve used each of these activities more than once and they went down very well with the learners ( older teens and adults). They produced great discussions and many laughs and really helped them to focus on the target language. Great activities, thank you for sharing them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *