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  • What Is a Modal Verb? | Definition & Examples

What Is a Modal Verb? | Definition & Examples

Published on February 14, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on December 6, 2023.

A modal verb (also called a modal auxiliary verb ) is used along with a main verb to express possibility, ability, permission, or necessity. For example, in the statement “you must leave,” “must” is a modal verb indicating that it’s necessary for the subject (“you”) to perform the action of the verb (“leave”).

The modal verb “will” is used to form the future tense, indicating an action that has not yet occurred (e.g., “I will clean the garage”).

Can you drive me to the airport?

Table of contents

How are modal verbs used in sentences, modal verbs list, modal verbs and auxiliary verbs, modal verbs and mood, other uses of modal verbs, other interesting language articles, frequently asked questions.

Modal verbs are used along with a main verb to indicate ability, necessity, possibility, and permission. In sentences containing modal verbs, the main verb typically takes the infinitive form. Modal verbs come before main verbs and never change form.

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Below is a table that illustrates some of the various uses of modal verbs. Note that modal verbs are very commonly used in a wide variety of senses—this table doesn’t cover every possible usage.

Can Indicate ability

Indicate possibility

Indicate permission (informal)

Make a request (informal)

Javi play the guitar.

We drive or walk.

You borrow that book.

I have some water?

Could Past form of “can”

Indicate possibility

Make a polite request

She speak French.

You become a chef.

you tell me the time?

May Indicate possibility

Indicate permission (formal)

Make a request (formal)

Dana arrive late.

You enter.

I respond?

Might Indicate possibility I order pizza.
Must Indicate obligation

Indicate likelihood

Cyclists wear helmets.

You be very proud.

Shall Indicate a future action (normally used only with “I” and “we”)

Ask a question (normally used only with “I” and “we”)

I attend.

we arrange a meeting?

Should Make a suggestion

Indicate likelihood

You watch that film.

Tom be at the office.

Will Indicate a future action or event

Make a polite request

Fay book the venue.

you get the door?

Would Past form of “will”

Make a polite request

She often work late.

you call back later?

Modal verbs are classed as a type of auxiliary verb . Auxiliary verbs are used along with a main verb to express tense, mood, or voice. However, unlike modal verbs, regular auxiliary verbs follow subject-verb agreement and must be conjugated for tense and mood.

Gordon has burned the toast.

Modal verbs can be used along with auxiliary verbs to refer to possible past, continuous, or future action.

When a modal verb is followed by another auxiliary verb (e.g., “have,” “be”), the main verb takes either the past participle form (typically ending in “-ed,” “-n,” or “-t”) or the present participle form (ending in “-ing”).

The modal verb “will” is used in all aspects of the future tense (e.g., “I will talk,” “you will be traveling ”).

You may be wondering what I mean.

The grammatical mood of a verb indicates the intention of the sentence. Modal verbs and auxiliary verbs are used along with a main verb to express mood.

Indicative State a fact “Lana is drinking coffee.”
Express a command or a request (often with a negative auxiliary verb) Don’t forget to call.”
Interrogative Ask a question Would you open the window?”
Conditional Express a condition “You should leave now if you want to get the bus.”
Express a wish, doubt, or hypothetical situation “If you were free, we could watch a movie.”

Modal verbs have various other functions in English. They can also be used:

  • In indirect speech
  • In negative statements
  • For emphasis

Indirect speech

Modal verbs are used in indirect speech to indicate what someone else said. While most modal verbs stay the same when used in indirect speech, the past form of some modal verbs is used instead (e.g., “can” becomes “could”).

Negative statements

In negative statements containing modal verbs, the adverb “not” comes immediately after the modal verb and before all other verbs. The negative form is often contracted (e.g., “would not” becomes “wouldn’t”).

In everyday conversation, people sometimes place emphasis on a modal verb to refute a previous statement or question. The emphasized word is often italicized when written down.

If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, common mistakes, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

Nouns & pronouns

  • Common nouns
  • Proper nouns
  • Collective nouns
  • Personal pronouns
  • Uncountable and countable nouns
  • Verb tenses
  • Phrasal verbs
  • Sentence structure
  • Active vs passive voice
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Interjections
  • Determiners
  • Prepositions

Modal verbs (also called modal auxiliary verbs ) are used along with a main verb to express ability, possibility, necessity, and permission. They are a type of auxiliary verb .

For example, in the statement “I can drive,” “can” is a modal verb indicating that the subject (“I”) has the ability to perform the action of the verb (“drive”).

“Would” is a modal verb that’s often used along with the auxiliary verb “have” to indicate that something was possible in the past but no longer is (e.g., “She would have been a professional athlete if she hadn’t broken her leg”). It can be contracted to “would’ve.”

People sometimes mistakenly write “would of” because of its similar pronunciation. However, “would of” is never correct.

“May” is a modal verb used to indicate possibility (e.g., “I may miss the bus”), make a request (e.g., “May I have a drink?”), or indicate permission (e.g., “You may sit down”).

Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

Ryan, E. (2023, December 06). What Is a Modal Verb? | Definition & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/verbs/modal-verb/
Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar . Oxford University Press.
Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.
Garner, B. A. (2016). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

Modal verbs (will, would, should, may, can, could, might, must) precede another verb. Modals do not have subject-verb agreement or take the infinitive “to” before the next verb.

This handout shows how modals in academic writing can change a sentence’s meaning into a prediction, suggestion, or a question. Modals can also serve a social function to show uncertainty or politeness. They are especially common in discussion sections of research papers.

How to use this handout

This handout is best used with a piece of writing that benefits from being subjective. Each function alters a sentence’s perspective differently.

Logical possibility: expresses a degree of probability

Before: This is the fastest way to drive to Westwood. After: This might be the fastest way to drive to Westwood.

Ability: shows capability

Before: Riding the bus avoids traffic. After: Riding the bus can avoid traffic.

Necessity: expresses directness in attitude

Before: Wash your hands before preparing food. After: You must wash your hands before preparing food.

Permission: shows politeness

Before: I am going to your office hours. After: Can I go to your office hours?

Strength and frequency of modal verbs

In academic writing , modal verbs are most frequently used to indicate logical possibility and least frequently used to indicate permission. Eight modal verbs are listed under each of the functions they can perform in academic writing, and are ordered from strongest to weakest for each function. Notice that the same modal can have different strengths when it’s used for different functions (e.g., may or can).

Most Frequent: Logical Possibility Medium Frequency: Ability Medium Frequency: Necessity Least Frequent: Permission
Strongest will/would could should (as advice) can
Stronger should
Weaker may
Weakest can/could/might

Functions of modal verbs

This second table organizes examples of each modal by its use, also including an explanation.

Use Explanation of use Modals Examples
Logical possibility This use of modals hedges, or weakens, the certainty of a sentence. The stronger the modal, the stronger the possibility. Must is so strong that it is almost forcing something to happen. On the opposite end, can, could, and might are all equally weak and show a lack of commitment or confidence.

Strongest logical possibility = most probable (but still not guaranteed)

must

will

would

should

may

can

could

might

Those clouds must mean that it will rain later.

As a result, the market will close earlier than usual today.

This naïve approach would not work well everyday.

Careful thought should be put into important decisions.

This may ultimately lead to better outcomes.

Careless actions can lead to disastrous results.

Changing these settings could produce more favorable results.

These factors might contribute to the success of the project.

Ability This use shows ability, which is binary, rather than possibility, which falls on a spectrum.

Strongest ability = most direct

can

could

The literature can be organized by date, author, or argument.

A person who could interpret the results assisted the researcher.

Necessity This use gives advice or makes a recommendation.

Strongest necessity = most direct

must

should

A closer examination reveals that the subject must be treated with great care.

Our findings suggest that health care providers should strive to be sensitive to the needs of their patients.

Permission This use asks or gives permission in the form of a question. It almost never appears in published academic writing, but frequently appears in academic correspondence such as e-mails, proposals, or revisions. The strongest modal in this use, may, is the most polite and indirect, whereas can is the more direct and slightly impolite.

Strongest permission = most polite

may

could

can

May I request a copy of the article that you published in 1999?

Could you get back to me by Tuesday?

Can you elaborate on the significance or contribution of this?

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Celce-Murcia, Marianne, and Diane Larsen-Freeman. 2015. The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher’s Course , 3rd ed. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Part Three Editing / Grammar Skills

Unit 15 Modals

Learning Objectives

  • To understand what modals are and what principles they follow
  • To learn the challenges and strategies in using appropriate modals
  • To learn the meanings and uses of modals and modal-like expressions through multiple examples
  • To practice using modals through  a variety of writing situations

showcase of culture artifacts at entrance of ESL & Linguistics Department at Harper College

The following ten sentences are about some customs from different countries. The modal and main verb are bold-faced in each sentence. If the bold-faced part is correct, choose “correct”.  If not, choose the other answer. After you finish one sentence, you will get instant feedback on your answer before the next sentence. If you make mistakes, you can retry all the questions or see all the answers at the end of the pre-test.

II. Principles of Using Modals

As you have learned in Unit 9 Verb Basics in Academic Writing ( Open Unit 9 here ) , modals are an important part of the verb family. They are considered helping verbs, also called auxiliary verbs. Most modals follow the following principles:

1. They cannot exist by themselves. They are followed by the base form of main verbs to show different meanings and tones.

modal + base form of main verb = complete verb

  • In the United States, people should call ahead before visiting someone. ( no “calls, called, calling, to call” )
  • People must not show the “OK” gesture [1] with the thumb and index finger in Mexico. ( no “shows, showed, showing, to show” )

2. Contractions are common are in modals, such as “shouldn’t” and “mustn’t”. However, “may” and “might” do not have a contraction form. It is wrong to write “mayn’t” and “mightn’t”.

two words "yes" and "no" with "yes" crossed out

  • Small children mayn’t stay ( may not stay ) alone at home in the United States.
  • It mightn’t be ( might not be ) a good idea for children to stay in their friend’s home overnight.

3. Some expressions are called modal-like expressions. There is a “to” in them, and the base form of the verb follows the “to”. These expressions include:  be able to, be supposed to, have to, have got to, ought to, and some others.

  • People have to come on time for an appointment in the United States.
  • They are supposed to explain the reasons if they are late.

4. Some modals and modal-like expressions are often used in conversations only.

  • In Thailand, people had better not touch the head of a statue.
  • In the U.S. restaurants, customers have got to tip the waiters and waitresses.

Exercise 1. The following sentences are about dining customs in some countries. There are mistakes in the form of modals and main verbs. Identify each mistake by underlining the whole verb (modal + main verb) and then correct the mistake. If the main verb is missing, add it.

Example :   

People can to learn ( can learn ) about different customs and traditions when they travel abroad.

a plate of food with a fork and a knife

  • Dinning traditions may the most interesting to most people.
  • In Kenya, guests should to wash their hands both before and after the meal. They cannot sitting with their feet and toes pointing toward any of the other guests or the food. Kenyans do not use utensils [2] . They eat with their right hand. They must not to use their left hand during the whole meal.
  • Americans and Europeans have opposite dinning etiquettes [3] . Americans should holds the knife in their right hand and the fork in their left hand, but the Europeans are suppose to hold the knife in their left hand and the fork in their right hand.
  • People in Morocco practice communal [4] eating. This means that they eat from the communal bowl closest to them. A person must eats using his or her right hand. The left hand mayn’t be used to get food. If a bone is taken, the person supposed to suck the marrow [5] from it.

III. Challenges in Learning Modals and the Strategies in Using Them

1. The same modal may have different meanings in different contexts.

  • I can drive a car because I have a driver’s license. (permission)
  • I can drive a car because I know how to drive. (ability)

2. The same meaning can be expressed with different modals, but the tone or level of strength is different.

  • In order to drive in the U.S, a person must have a driver’s license. (stronger)
  • In order to drive in the U.S, a person has to have a driver’s license. (less strong)

3. Some modals have the appearance of past tense, but they have a present or future meaning.

  • Most cultural traditions stay for generations, but some might change quickly.
  • People had better learn the customs of another country when they travel there.

Strategies:

1. Understand a modal, its meaning, its time (past, present, future), and its form together as a “package”.

  • In many countries in the past, young people had to follow the custom of the arranged marriage.
  • In some countries nowadays and in the near future, some young people still must follow the custom of the arranged marriage.

In both sentences, “had to follow” and “must follow” have the same meaning: obligation, responsibility, necessity.

However, the first sentence shows the meaning in the past, and its form is “had to + follow”.

In the second sentence, the same meaning is expressed in present and future sense, and its form is “must + follow”.

Therefore, try not to study modals in isolation [6] . Instead, understand them in the context and study the “package”.

2. Use the same strategy as in learning other aspects of English: practice, practice, and practice.

IV. Uses of Modals and Modal-Like Expressions

Meaning : advice, suggestions

  • In the United States, customers should tip the waiters or waitresses for their service. (present)
  • Customers ought to tip the waiters or waitresses for their service. (less common) (present)
  • They can tip /could tip 10 – 20% of the food bill. (present, softer tone)
  • Customers should not leave the restaurant without tipping the waiters or waitresses. (present)

Exercise 2. Give at least two suggestions for each of the following situations.

One of your classmates is going to visit your country as a tourist in summer .

Suggestion #1 :  You should bring a few extra bottles of sunscreen because my country Colombia is near the equator and  the sun is very intense.

Suggestion #2:   You ought to try bandeja paisa. It is Colombia’s unofficial national dish.

  • One of your siblings has found an American boyfriend (or girlfriend)
  • One of your relatives is planning to study at Harper College for the first time.
  • One of your American friends is going to study at a university in your native country.
  • One of your professors is considering studying your native language.
  • One of your friends is nervous about meeting his parents-in-law for the first time.

Meaning: abilities 

A 19th-century illustrated Sanskrit manuscript from the Bhagavad Gita, composed c. 400 BCE – 200 BCE.

  • There are many languages in India. Many people there can speak more than 5 different ones. (present)
  • They are able to speak Hindi, English, and some regional dialects. (present)
  • The Indian government recognizes twenty-three official languages, but most people cannot speak all of them. (present)
  • People in ancient Indian could speak Sanskrit, one of the earliest languages. (past)
  • They were able to speak Sanskrit as early as 2000 BC. (past)

Meaning: permissions

  • In Canada, college students can address / may address their professors by the first name. (present)
  • In Canada, college students could not drink alcohol in class fifty years ago, and they still cannot . (past, present)
  • In Ukraine, college students cannot call / may not call their professors by the first name. It is considered very impolite. (present)

Exercise 3. Finish the following sentences to express ability and permission.

When I was a child, I could climb a tree . (ability)

  • When I was a child, I could ____________________. (ability)
  • When I was a child, I could not ____________________ (ability)
  • Now I am an adult. I can ____________________ (ability)
  • Now I am an adult. I cannot ____________________. (ability)
  • When I was a student in my home country, I could ____________________ (permission)
  • When I was a student in my home country, I could not ____________________ (permission)
  • Now I am a student in the U.S. I can ____________________ (permission)
  • Now I am a student in the U.S. I cannot ____________________ (permission)

Meaning: necessity, obligation, responsibility

  • In Iraqi formal greetings, people must use a person’s surname and title, for example, Dr. Kazem. (present)
  • Men have to stand to greet a woman when she enters the room. (present)
  • A long time ago in Iraq, everyone had to stand when an elderly person arrived. This custom has remained to this day. (past)
  • In Iraqi culture, people do not have to kiss each other as a way of greeting. Handshaking is common. (present)

three Mongolia gers

Meaning: prohibition [7]

  • People must not whistle inside a Mongolian ger, a round-shaped dwelling. (present)
  • In a ger, people must not point their feet to the north end. (present)

Exercise 4. Discuss the following questions. What are the answers in your home country? What are the answers in the United States?

  • Must people get married first if they want to live together?
  • Do people have to get their parents’ permission to get married?
  • Must men serve in the military?
  • Do school children have to wear uniforms?
  • What are the things you must not do on the street?
  • What are the things you must not do during a test?
  • What are the questions you must not ask a lady?

Meaning: possibilities

  • In Japan, parents do not kiss each other in front of their children. They must think / may think / might think / could think it improper [8] for the children to see their intimacy [9] . (present)
  • This custom may change / might change /could change in the near future. The young generation should welcome / may welcome / might welcome / could welcome this change. (future)
  • Some words are the same in writing in both Chinese and Japanese. However, the meanings of these words may not be / might not be the same. (present)

Meaning: expectations

  • On March 8, the International Women’s Day, men are supposed to buy flowers for women in Russia and many other Eastern European countries. (present)
  • On that day, women are not supposed to do much housework. They are supposed to take a day off. (present)
  • Last year, Natalia’s husband was supposed to buy flowers for her, but he forgot. (past)

Meaning: preferences

  • In some countries, people prefer arranged marriages. Parents would rather pick someone as their future son-in-law or daughter-in-law than let their child decide. (present)
  • Some young people would rather not get into a marriage than marry someone they do not love. (present)

Exercise 5. Write sentences according to the instructions.

  • Use modals of possibility to write three guesses why seafood is popular on Valentine’s Day in the U.S.
  • Use modals of expectation to write three things you are supposed to know when you go to an American family for dinner.
  • Use modals of preference to write three choices of food on New Year’s Eve in your home country.

V. Unit Review Practice

Exercise 6. Read the following sayings. Each contains a modal. Discuss what the saying means and whether you agree with it. Do you have similar sayings in your native language? How do you say them? If you can think of additional sayings with modals, please list them below.

a dog balancing a ball

  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
  • Beggars can’t be choosers.
  • People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
  • Children should be seen, not heard.
  • Bitter pills may have blessed effects.
  • Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

________________________________________

Exercise 7.  The following sentences are about school uniforms. The modals and main verbs are underlined.  Discuss their different meanings and time references (past, present, future) in the context. The first one is an example.

four girls in school uniform doing hand signs

  • School uniforms could be ( possibility, present) an important part of school traditions. Students in some schools must wear the school uniform. They may not attend school without their uniform. The uniform must be important.
  • A uniform reflects [10] the school and its reputation. Therefore, students are supposed to be in their best behavior.
  • Students with totally different uniforms cannot belong to the same school even though they may be siblings. They must not exchange their uniforms with students from other schools.
  • In some schools, uniforms are optional. Students may choose to wear one. They could also wear their own clothes. Some students would rather have the uniform. They would rather not spen d half an hour each morning choosing what to wear.
  • In most cases, uniforms are not free. Students have to purchase them. Most families are able to afford them, but some are not. This might increase the financial burden for some families.
  • Even though the students must wear their uniform while in school, they do not have to wear one after school.
  • Should schools require uniforms? There have been many debates [11] . If most students do not like them, they may disappear in the near future. Otherwise, they should stay for a long, long time.

Exercise 8. The follow is an essay on how high school students in different countries spend time in the summer.  Underlined the modals and their main verbs.  Then discuss what they means in the context and whether they express present, past, or future time. The first one is an example.

After you finish reading and understanding the first three paragraphs, write a new supporting paragraph about a person you know who spent last summer vacationing and relaxing. Then write a conclusion for the essay.  Include at least five modals and modal-like expressions. You may write in the box below or in your own notebook.   (Warning: Once you leave this page, you will lose what you have written in the box.)

sunglasses on sand

How to Spend the Summer?

          High school students in different countries may spend (possibility, present) their summer very differently. Some might value life experiences by working on a job, some could use the time catching up with their academic work, and others might consider it an opportunity to relax and have fun. How they spend their summer might reflect some of the customs and values of their cultures.

          It is common for many high school students in the United States to work during the summer months. They could work in any type of job: food, travel, secretarial, health care, summer camp, and many others. Last summer, Joan worked as a summer camp activity leader. She was happy that the job provided her with valuable work experience as well as a small income. Both the experience and the money should be helpful in her future college study.

          In Korea, however, it is not usual for high school students to hold a job in summer. They are supposed to take extra classes to prepare for university. Last summer, Ji-hoon kept himself busy by taking a few science and English classes in a cram school. Though he was very busy, he had to do so. He was determined to be better prepared for his university entrance exam.

Exercise 9. Choose two of the following topics and write a paragraph for each. Use proper modals.

  • Describe one of the holiday dinning traditions in your native country.
  • Describe some customs about naming a baby in your native country.
  • Explain one of the taboos [12] for a wedding ceremony in your native country.
  • Some people say that elderly parents should live with their adult children. Do you agree or disagree? Why do you think so?
  • In America, it is common to “go Dutch” (split the food bill in the restaurant) when people dine out. Is this practice common in your native culture? If not, why not? who usually pays for the meals?
  • Write about the joys and challenges of living in two cultures (your native culture and the American culture). What was your biggest cultural shock during your first two weeks in the U.S.?

  NSNT Practice

a pen writing in a notebook

Go to The NSNT Free Writing Approach and Additional Weekly Prompts for Writing in Appendix A. ( Open Appendix A here. ) Choose two topics that involve modals. You may start with the NSNT approach. Then revise and edit your paragraphs. Pay attention to the use of modals. You are encouraged to share your writing with your partner and help each other improve.

Vocabulary Review

a page in a dictionary

The words here have appeared in this unit.  The best way to learn them is to guess the meaning of each word from the context.  Then hover your computer mouse over the number beside each word to check its meaning and part of speech. These words are also listed in the footnote area at the end of each unit.

Here, you can use the flashcards below to review these words.

  • Modals are helping verbs (also called auxiliary verbs). They must be used with a main verb to serve as the complete verb in a sentence: Modal + Main Verb = Complete Verb
  • A modal is followed by the base form of the main verb.
  • The same modals may mean differently in different contexts, and some others may share similar meanings but have differences in tone and level of emphasis.
  • Some modals have their unique forms of past tense. Some of them look like the past tense but mean present or future.
  • Do not use “mayn’t” and “mightn’t”.
  • A good strategy is to understand modals is by learning each modal, its meaning, its time reference, and its form together as a “package”.

Media Attributions

  • showcase of culture artifacts at entrance of ESL Department at Harper College © Lin Cui is licensed under a CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) license
  • two words “yes” and “no” with “yes” crossed out © Photo by cottonbro from Pexels
  • a plate of food with a fork and a knife © medium:after_download_modal.copy_text.photo: https://www.pexels.com/photo/boiled-potatoes-with-salad-and-meat-rissole-4210862/
  • A 19th-century illustrated Sanskrit manuscript from the Bhagavad Gita, composed c. 400 BCE – 200 BCE. © Unknown artist is licensed under a Public Domain license
  • three Mongolia gers © Photo by Audrius Sutkus on Unsplash
  • a dog balancing a ball © Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels
  • four girls in school uniform doing hand signs © Photo by 周 康 from Pexels
  • sunglasses on sand © Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels
  • a pen writing in a notebook © Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
  • a page in a dictionary © Pixabay
  • gesture: noun, a movement of hands, arms, or another part of the body to express an idea or emotion ↵
  • utensil: noun, a dining tool such as a spoon or a fork ↵
  • etiquette: noun, a rule or tradition for proper social behavior ↵
  • communal: adjective, used or shared by everyone in the group ↵
  • marrow: noun, the soft, fatty part inside a bone ↵
  • in isolation: prepositional phrase, separately, apart from each other ↵
  • prohibition: noun, things that are not allowed ↵
  • improper: adjective, not appropriate, not right ↵
  • intimacy: noun, a very close, loving relationship ↵
  • reflect: verb, show, represent ↵
  • debate: noun, an argument ↵
  • taboo: noun, an unacceptable word or behavior especially in a group setting ↵

Building Academic Writing Skills Copyright © 2022 by Cui, Lin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Cambridge Dictionary

  • Cambridge Dictionary +Plus

Modal verbs and modality

Modality is about a speaker’s or a writer’s attitude towards the world. A speaker or writer can express certainty, possibility, willingness, obligation, necessity and ability by using modal words and expressions.

Speakers often have different opinions about the same thing.

These speakers are looking at the same thing.

Modal verbs

Here are the main verbs we use to express modal meanings:

Core modal verbs: can , could , may , might , will , shall , would , should , must

Semi-modals: dare, need , ought to , used to

Other verbs with modal meanings: have (got) to, be going to and be able to

Be going to : form

Have got to and have to

Modal words and expressions

There are a number of other words and expressions in English, apart from the main modal verbs, which also express modal meanings.

Here are some examples:

modal form

example

noun

of snow this evening.

adjective

that the Prime Minister is worried about education.

adverb

not fed up with it.

Modality: meanings and uses

Modality: other modal words and expressions

Be expressions ( be able to , be due to )

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ESL Grammar

Modal Verbs: Useful Rules, List and Examples in English

Are you struggling to understand the concept of modal verbs? Look no further! In this article, we will dive into the basics of modal verbs and provide you with a clear understanding of their function in English grammar.

It is important to note that modal verbs have a unique set of rules that differ from regular verbs. For example, they do not use an “s” for the third person singular, and they make questions by inversion. It is also important to understand the different nuances of each modal verb and how they are used in context. So, let’s get started and explore the world of modal verbs together!

Modal Verbs

Definition of Modal Verbs

Modal verbs are a special class of auxiliary verbs that are used to modify the meaning of the main verb in a sentence. They are also known as modal auxiliary verbs or simply modals. Modal verbs are used to express different kinds of meanings such as possibility, ability, permission, necessity, and more.

Modal verbs are always used in combination with ordinary verbs and they change the meaning of the verb to something different from simple fact. They are commonly used in English and are an essential part of the language.

The following are some of the most common modal verbs in English:

Each of these modal verbs has a specific meaning and usage in English. For example, “can” is used to express ability, “may” is used to express possibility, and “must” is used to express necessity.

Modal verbs are also used to create different tenses in English. For example, “could” is used to create the past conditional tense, while “will” is used to create the future tense.

It is important to note that modal verbs do not have infinitive or participle forms. They are always used in their base form, and they do not take the -ing or -ed endings.

In summary, modal verbs are a special class of auxiliary verbs that are used to modify the meaning of the main verb in a sentence. They are used to express different kinds of meanings such as possibility, ability, permission, necessity, and more. Understanding the usage of modal verbs is essential for effective communication in English.

Types of Modal Verbs

Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that express a range of meanings such as ability, permission, possibility, obligation, and advice. Here are the different types of modal verbs:

Modal verbs of ability express whether you are capable of doing something or not. The most common modal verbs of ability are “can” and “could.” Here are some examples:

  • You can speak English fluently.
  • I could run a marathon when I was younger.

Modal verbs of permission express whether you are allowed to do something or not. The most common modal verbs of permission are “may” and “can.” Here are some examples:

  • May I leave early today?
  • Can I borrow your car for the weekend?

Possibility

Modal verbs of possibility express the likelihood of something happening. The most common modal verbs of possibility are “may,” “might,” “could,” and “can.” Here are some examples:

  • It may rain later today.
  • The train might be delayed.
  • She could be at home.

Modal verbs of obligation express whether you are required to do something or not. The most common modal verbs of obligation are “must” and “should.” Here are some examples:

  • You must submit your report by Friday.
  • You should apologize for your mistake.

Modal verbs of advice express recommendations or suggestions. The most common modal verbs of advice are “should” and “ought to.” Here are some examples:

  • You should exercise regularly to stay healthy.
  • You ought to try the new restaurant in town.

In summary, modal verbs are essential in expressing different meanings in English. Understanding the different types of modal verbs can help you communicate more effectively and accurately.

Modal Verbs: Rules & Examples

Learn how and when to use modal verbs in English with rules and example sentences.

1. To indicate that something is probable or possible, or not so.

For example:

  • It is sunny today; it must be warm outside. = It is sunny today; it is probably warm outside.
  • His mobile is not reachable; he may/might/could be travelling by metro. = His mobile is not reachable; it is possible that he is travelling by metro.
  • This can’t be our bill. = It is not possible that this is our bill.

2. ‘Can’ and ‘could’ are used to refer to skills and abilities.

  • He can cover a hundred metres in under ten seconds.
  • My father could see perfectly before the age of fifty.
  • I can’t ride a horse.

3. ‘Must’ is used to indicate that something is necessary or of extreme importance, and ‘should’ is used to suggest that something is advisable.

  • You must do your homework.
  • You mustn’t skip school.
  • You should say sorry.
  • You shouldn’t smoke.

4. ‘Can’, ‘could’ and ‘may’ are used to ask for, give and withhold permission.

  • Can I try my hand at it?
  • Could we disperse early today?
  • You may not enter the premises.

5. ‘Will’ and ‘would’ are used to refer to habits and inclinations.

  • When I was a child, I would often climb trees.
  • I will never refuse you anything.
  • He would never do such a thing.

Note : These verbs differ from ordinary verbs in 3 respects.

  • When used with the third person singular (he, she), they don’t require the addition of an ‘s’.
  • They can be used to form questions by inverting the structure of the sentence.
  • They can be followed directly by the verb, without the use of ‘to’.

Usage of Modal Verbs

Modal verbs are an essential part of English grammar. They are used to express a variety of meanings such as ability, possibility, permission, and obligation. In this section, we will discuss the usage of modal verbs in statements, questions, and negative sentences.

In Statements

Modal verbs are often used in statements to express various meanings. Here are some examples:

  • Ability: “I can speak French fluently.”
  • Possibility: “It may rain tomorrow.”
  • Permission: “You may leave the room now.”
  • Obligation: “You must finish your homework before going out.”

Note that when using modal verbs in statements, the main verb is always in its base form (infinitive) without “to.”

In Questions

Modal verbs are also commonly used in questions to ask for permission, ability, or possibility. Here are some examples:

  • Permission: “May I leave the room now?”
  • Ability: “Can you swim?”
  • Possibility: “Could it be true?”

In questions, the modal verb is usually placed at the beginning of the sentence.

In Negative Sentences

Modal verbs can also be used in negative sentences to express the absence of ability, permission, or obligation. Here are some examples:

  • Ability: “I cannot speak French fluently.”
  • Permission: “You may not leave the room now.”
  • Obligation: “You must not forget to lock the door.”

In negative sentences, the word “not” is added after the modal verb.

It is important to note that some modal verbs have different meanings depending on the context. For example, “must” can express obligation, but it can also be used to express a strong recommendation or deduction. In addition, some modal verbs have more than one form, such as “may” and “might,” which can both be used to express possibility.

Overall, modal verbs are an important part of English grammar and are used in a variety of contexts. By understanding their usage in statements, questions, and negative sentences, you can improve your English communication skills.

Common Modal Verb Phrases

Modal verbs are often used with other verbs to create phrases that convey a specific meaning. Here are some common modal verb phrases and their meanings:

  • Can’t help but  – This phrase is used to express that you cannot stop yourself from doing something. For example, “I can’t help but smile when I see puppies.”
  • Have to  – This phrase is used to express obligation or necessity. For example, “I have to finish my homework before I can go out.”
  • Need to  – This phrase is used to express that something is necessary. For example, “I need to drink water after exercising.”
  • Should have  – This phrase is used to express regret about something that was not done in the past. For example, “I should have studied more for the test.”
  • Would rather  – This phrase is used to express a preference. For example, “I would rather stay at home than go to the party.”
  • Must have  – This phrase is used to express certainty about something that happened in the past. For example, “He must have left his phone at home.”
  • Might as well  – This phrase is used to suggest doing something because there is no reason not to. For example, “Since we have some extra time, we might as well go for a walk.”

Modal verb phrases can be very useful in expressing specific meanings and adding nuance to your language. It’s important to use them correctly and in the appropriate context.

Modal Verbs vs Auxiliary Verbs

When it comes to understanding the English language, it’s important to know the difference between modal verbs and auxiliary verbs. While both of these types of verbs are used to help the main verb in a sentence, there are some key differences between them.

Modal Verbs

Modal verbs, also known as modal auxiliary verbs, are a group of verbs that give additional information about the function of the main verb. They show possibility, intent, ability, or necessity. Modal verbs do not change their appearance, and they are used alongside the infinitive form of the main verb of a sentence.

Some common examples of modal verbs include:

Modal verbs are used to show if you believe something is certain, possible, or impossible. They can also be used to talk about ability, ask permission, and make requests and offers.

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs , also known as helping verbs, are used to help the main verb in a sentence. They change according to certain factors in the sentence, such as tense, person, and number.

Some common examples of auxiliary verbs include:

Auxiliary verbs can be used to form different tenses, such as the present perfect or past continuous. They can also be used to form questions and negatives.

In summary, the main difference between modal verbs and auxiliary verbs is that modal verbs do not change their appearance, while auxiliary verbs change according to certain factors in the sentence. Understanding the difference between these two types of verbs can help you to use them correctly in your writing and speaking.

Modal Verbs in Different Tenses

When it comes to tenses, modal verbs are quite unique. Unlike regular verbs, modal verbs do not change their form to indicate different tenses. They are used in their base form regardless of the time frame.

Modal verbs can refer to present and future time, but only some of them can refer to past time. Here is a table showing the modal verbs that can be used to refer to past time:

Modal Verb Past Time Usage
could ability in the past
might possibility in the past
should obligation in the past
would past habit or willingness

For example, “I could swim when I was younger” or “He would always help me with my homework.”

It’s important to note that when using modal verbs to refer to past time, the main verb in the sentence should be in the base form as well. For example, “I could have gone to the party, but I decided not to.”

In addition to the past time usage, here are some examples of how modal verbs can be used in different tenses:

  • Present: “You should eat more vegetables.”
  • Future: “We will have to leave early tomorrow.”
  • Perfect: “He must have forgotten his phone at home.”
  • Continuous: “They might be playing tennis right now.”

Overall, modal verbs are a versatile and useful tool in English grammar. By understanding how they can be used in different tenses, you can effectively communicate your intentions and convey meaning in your writing and speech.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of modal verbs in English?

Modal verbs are used to express ability, possibility, necessity, and permission. Some examples of modal verbs in English include can, may, must, shall, will, could, might, should, and would.

How many modal verbs are there in English?

There are nine modal verbs in English: can, may, must, shall, will, could, might, should, and would.

What is the definition of modal verbs and how are they used?

Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that are used to express various meanings such as ability, possibility, necessity, and permission. They are followed by the base form of a verb and do not change their form based on the subject of the sentence. Modal verbs can also be used to make requests, give advice, and express opinions.

What is a good worksheet for practicing modal verbs?

There are many worksheets available online for practicing modal verbs. One good worksheet is the “Modal Verbs Practice” worksheet from Englishlinx.com. This worksheet includes exercises for practicing the different uses of modal verbs in English.

What are some common sentences using modal verbs?

Some common sentences using modal verbs include:

  • I can swim.
  • You should study for the test.
  • He may arrive late.
  • We must finish the project by Friday.
  • They could come to the party.

How do you pronounce modal verbs correctly?

Modal verbs are pronounced with stress on the first syllable. For example, can is pronounced as “kan,” may is pronounced as “may,” and must is pronounced as “must.”

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Modal Verbs – Uses, Examples

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| Candace Osmond

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

When you ask someone, “Can I go out?” you might get a sarcastic “You can, but you may not.” response. That’s because “can” and “may” are modal verbs that suggest different meanings. My dad used to drive me crazy as a kid with remarks like that.

Modal verbs are a type of verb found before the main verb. Keep reading to learn modal verbs’ definitions and uses. You’ll also see how to correctly use them in sentences because I’ve got a ton of examples to share with you.

What is a Modal Verb?

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Modal verbs are verbs that express advice, capability, proposals, or hypothetical conditions. These verbs are different from normal verbs, such as tell, think, and reuse.

This type of verb can be found before an action verb to give it an additional meaning. As auxiliary verbs, modal verbs cannot stand independently to complete a sentence.

Here’s an example of how a modal verb gives shades of meaning to a sentence.

  • Trina and Joan play the piano.

Trina and Joan might play the piano.

Another verb always follows modal verbs in base form. Remember not to conjugate the verb. For example:

  • Incorrect: She can plays the piano.

Correct: She can play the piano.

What are the 9 Modal Verbs?

The nine modal verbs with modal meanings are:

Other modal verbs you can use are ought to, need to, have to, and might as well. We can use these modals to express obligation, permission, and suggestion,

What are the 4 Main Types of Modals?

Modal verbs can be divided into four main types.

Modals of Deduction

Modals of deduction are also known as modals of probability or certainty. These verbs help the speaker show that they are confident or not of something. The primary modals of deduction are must, might, may, and could. For example:

  • The students must be practicing right now.
  • I may not be here for a long time.

Modals of Ability

Modals of ability show one’s ability or lack thereof. The main ability modal verbs are can, cannot, be able to, and could. For example:

  • She’s been able to drive a truck since she was sixteen.
  • He cannot understand English.

Modals of Requests, Offers, and Permission

Modal verbs of requests, offers, and permission help the speaker inquire about permission. The modals in this category are can, could, and may. For example:

  • May I go to the bathroom?

Modals of Advice, Obligation, and Prohibition

This type of modal verb helps say something important or not. You can also use them to make suggestions and give advice. These modals include have to, must, can, and cannot. For example:

  • You must do all your homework before you go out.
  • I think we can park in this spot.

What’s the Difference Between Modal and Auxiliary Verbs?

A helper verb or auxiliary verb is a type of verb that adds grammatical meaning to clauses’ meanings. You can use these verbs to show modality, tense, voice, and more. That means modal verbs are only a type of auxiliary verbs. For example:

  • I should go back to sleep.

In this sentence, should adds grammatical functions to the sentence by showing obligation. Other modal verbs can be used to show willingness, certainty, necessity, ability, permission, advice, and possibility.

How Do We Use Modals?

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There are many ways we can use modal verbs. Follow these formulas when constructing your sentences.

Can, Could, Be Able To

Use these modal verbs to show a subject’s ability or lack of ability. Remember to add not for the negative form.

To show the present and future tense, follow these structures.

  • Can/can’t + base form

I can’t go to the mall later. (future)

Gina can sing well. (present)

  • Am/is/are/will be + able to + base form.

She is able to speak Italian. (present)

My friends will be able to attend the seminar. (future)

  • Am not/isn’t/won’t be + able to + base form.

Freddie won’t be able to buy the new toy. (future)

The past form of modal verbs showing ability follows this verb structure. Note that you can also use could for an action happening over a period of time.

  • Could/Couldn’t + base form of verbs

I could fly kites when I was a kid. (positive form)

I couldn’t reach the ceiling when I was young. (negative form)

The modal verb can can also be used to express permission or request permission. Here are the most common structures.

  • Can + subject + base form (Note that this structure is used to request for permission in informal situations. Do not use this in formal situations).

Can you buy me the new album?

  • Can/Can’t + base form

You can borrow my car.

Follow this structure when making a polite suggestion.

  • Could + base form

You could change your hairstyle.

The family could visit the castle tomorrow.

Modal verbs can also express the possibility and impossibility of something using this construction.

  • Can/Can’t/Could/Couldn’t + base form

You can arrive at the venue early if you leave now.

Like can and could, may and might can show the possibility or negative impossibility of something.

  • may/might + base form

It might be sunny tomorrow.

Mike might attend the party tomorrow night.

  • May not/might nor + base form

The Rooneys may not go to Canada this Christmas.

Follow this verb combination to make a polite suggestion.

  • May + subject + verb’s base form.

May I excuse myself?

The modal verb may is useful when giving formal permission or prohibition.

  • May/may not + base form

You may open your notes while answering the test.

Use may as well or might as well to create a suggestion for the last resort.

  • May/might as well + base form

The class may as well skip the examination.

Must, Have to, Need to, Needn’t, Don’t Have To

These modal verbs usually show necessity or requirement. Have to shows external obligation because the obligation comes from outside the speaker. The same is true with must and need to. Here are some ways to use them.

  • must/need to/have to/ + base form (for present and future tenses).

One must wear comfortable shoes for a successful hike.

They need to download the application to answer the test.

You have to light a candle for her tonight.

  • Had to/needed to + base form of the verb (past tense).

She needed a break from her student government duties.

I had to go to the gym last weekend.

Notice how must cannot be expressed in past tense sentences.

When trying to show that you are almost sure about something, follow this modal and main verb combination.

  • Must + base form of the verb.

Your parents are singers, so your voice must be excellent.

Use this formula when persuading someone.

  • Must/have to + base form

You must buy this bag. It’s spacious and perfect for school.

You have to listen to their music now.

Follow this structure when prohibiting someone.

  • Must not + base form

You must not drink and drive.

Shall, Should, Ought To

The modal verb shall is ideal for giving assistance or respectful suggestions. You can use it when you are certain of a positive answer

  • Shall + subject + verb’s base form

Shall we dance?

If you’re not sure of a positive answer, the correct verb to use should. Below is the proper construction.

  • Should + subject + root verb

Should I ask my mother about it?

Use shall in formal or legal situations. These sentences usually have a passive voice.

  • Shall + be + past participle.

The plaintiff shall be permitted to talk.

Should is ideal for making predictions or showing expectations about something. These sentences are also in passive voice.

  • should/shouldn’t + base form

This book should be finished next week.

You shouldn’t be worried. Turbulence isn’t dangerous.

Use should when giving advice. Here’s the correct structure with some common examples.

  • Should + base form

The manager should attend meetings on time.

You should submit your paper on time.

Ought to shows a sense of obligation like should .

  • Ought to + base form

Katy ought to have her teeth checked this week.

Will and Would

Will is a modal verb used to show the simple future tense.

  • Will/won’t + base form

I will pick you up later.

You can even use will and would to request something.

  • Will/Would + you + base form

Will you open the door for me?

Would you care if I borrowed your phone?

Would is a modal verb that expresses habitual past action.

  • Would/Would not + base form of the verb

When I was seven, we would always eat breakfast at his restaurant.

Using Modal Verbs in Sentences

You can use modals in the future and present time, showing different verb tenses to express hypotheticals and general events. But remember that not all modals can refer to a past situation.

Present Tenses

Here’s how to express verb phrases with modals in different present tenses.

Simple Present Tense

The simple present tense is the easiest. Just place the modal verb before the main verb, then use the base form of the verb. For example:

  • I can eat that entire tub of ice cream.

When asking a question in the simple present tense, write the modal verb, subject, then the root verb. For example:

  • Can I eat an entire tub of ice cream?

Present Continuous

The present continuous tense shows action in progress or habitual action. Write the modal verb, be, and the -ing form of the verb. For example:

  • I should be eating an entire tub of ice cream.

Present Perfect Continuous

This verb tense helps you express something that started happening in the past and continues in the present. But its grammatical function changes because there’s a modal verb before it.

The present perfect continuous tense requires a modal verb, “have been,” and the -ing verb form. For example:

  • I should have been eating ice cream.

In this sentence, should have been expresses what one thinks should have occurred in the past but did not occur.

Past Tenses and Present Perfect

Not all modal verbs can be expressed in the past tense, especially when you want to describe a hypothetical situation. The general rule is that can and will have simple past forms.

Simple Past

Conjugate can and will into their past forms: could and would. Have to become had to, while need to becomes needed to. But other modal verbs should not be used in past tense sentences. As usual, the formula is the modal verb plus the root verb. For example:

  • In eighth grade, I could not submit my English project on time.
  • I was at the department store because I needed to buy art materials.

Past Continuous

The past continuous or past progressive tense expresses an ongoing action happening at a certain point in the past. As with simple past, past continuous only uses could and would. After the modal verb, write have and the past participle of the verb. For example:

  • I could be enjoying the sunset in Santorini right now.

In this sentence, could be is used to express something untrue or hypothetical.

Present Perfect

The present perfect tense is another verb tense that uses past actions related to the present. It can also show an action continuing into the present. Use have and the past participle instead of the bare infinitive of the main verb.

Use the modal verb have even if the subject is third-person. For example:

  • I must have forgotten the time.

In this sentence, must have does not express something essential. Instead, must have is used when we feel sure about what happened.

If you are using the modal verb can, transform it into the past tense, could. For example:

  • I could have gotten into Brown if I did more extra-curricular activities.

In this sentence, could have means something you had the ability to perform in the past but failed or didn’t do.

Future Tense

The simple future tense is relatively easy to use with modals. That’s because most of them already use will. You can also use should, shall, and can as alternatives. All you need to do is use the modal verb and then the base form of the verb. For example:

  • We can eat ice cream tomorrow.

Other Rules for Using Modals

Modals are more straightforward than you think. Remember these four rules when using modal verbs.

Constructing Verb Phrases

As seen in the structures above, modal verbs always come first in verb phrases. Then, they are followed by bare infinitives. For example:

A few years ago, my family and I would go to the park every weekend.

Lina spent three years in Paris and two years in Florence. She must be good at French and Italian.

Remember that the bare infinitive does not include the word to. For example:

  • Incorrect: Nora might to be with us this weekend.

Correct: Nora might be with us this weekend.

Do not use to be as the full infinitive after the words might, should, will, may, or can. The correct term to use is be. That means you can also say, “Nora will be with us this weekend,” “Nora should be with us this weekend,” or “Nora can be with us this weekend.”

Don’t Add -s, -ed, or -ing to Modals

Try to think of modal verbs as the linking verb is. Don’t change them into the present, future, or past form. Modal verbs do not require these suffixes to show a verb tense. For example:

  • Incorrect: I canned climb trees when I was young.

Correct: I could climb trees when I was young.

Negative and Interrogative Forms

Like other auxiliaries, modal verbs can be expressed in interrogative and negative forms. I would add the word not after the modal verb for negative sentences. For example:

  • You must not go inside.

For interrogative sentences, the formula is modal verb + subject + base form.

  • Will she go with us?

Modal Verbs in a Nutshell

The English language is composed of several types of verbs, like Irregular verbs, regular verbs, copular verbs, dynamic verbs, and modal verbs. And you’ve probably seen modal verbs hundreds of times without knowing what they are.

Remember that modal verbs express advice, abilities, possibility, permission, or special conditions. When writing verb phrases, put the modal verbs first, then the bare infinitive.

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short essay with modal verbs

7ESL

Modal Verbs: A Complete Grammar Guide about Modal Verb

What are modal verbs? A modal verb might also be referred to as a ‘helping’ verb and these are very common within the English language. Most people will see the word verb and think “doing words” because verbs are simply action words that show something happening in some way. However, reading the above article title might leave you scratching your head wondering what exactly modal verbs are.

Don’t worry though, this guide will set that out clearly, and we’ll take a look at some of the rules that are attached to modal verbs so you can always spot them easily. As always, we’ll use some examples to make the point even clearer too. Without further ado, let’s go and explore modal verbs!

What is a Modal Verb?

Modal verbs are verbs that act very differently to the one’s you might be thinking of such as ‘work’, ‘play’, ‘eat’, etc. This is because modal verbs don’t actually describe action per se, instead they provide information about the function of the verb that is to follow. Modal verbs always come before a traditional verb, but they explain the modality of the verb. That sounds pretty confusing, so let’s just break down what exactly modality is!

Modal verb definition

In English, modal verbs  are a small class of auxiliary verbs used to express ability, permission, obligation, prohibition, probability, possibility, advice.

This is just what the modal verbs can help explain further for the verb that follows. These include:

  • Prohibition
  • Probability
  • Possibility

These will be better understood in the examples that follow later, but it’s important that you know them now.

Examples of Modal Verbs

Thankfully, modal verbs are easier to understand with examples, because there is actually quite a shortlist of these uniquely behaving verbs. Below is a list of modal verbs in the strictest sense (there are examples of modal auxiliary verbs, but for now they don’t need to be looked at because our focus today is on modal verbs). Here they are:

All of these modal verbs must come before a verb to help express at least one of the modality examples listed above. In some cases, though they can be used to express more than one modality, but you’ll see more on that in the following section. So, let’s take a look at some example sentences and highlight how the modal verb is expressing modality and adding more information to the verbs that follow them.

Examples Sentences Containing Modal Verbs

Read the following examples and explanations carefully. The function and meaning behind modal verbs are best understood through sentence examples, rather than explanation, because you can see for yourself how the modal verb is impacting upon the verb to make the meaning behind the sentence clearer. We don’t have enough room to look at every modal verb, but we can give you some examples so that you can see how different modalities are being expressed, and then you will be able to spot them for yourself in future. Let’s take a look.

‘I can run’ – is an example of the modal verb ‘can’ impacting upon the verb ‘run’. Here the modality that it is expressing is ability, because the individual is stating that they are  able  to run.

‘Can I borrow your trainers?’ – this sentence shows the modal verb ‘can’ impacting upon the verb ‘borrow’. But, you may notice that the modality is different. This time the modality expressed is permission, because the individual is  seeking permission  to borrow.

‘Running can make you ache’ – again, ‘can’ is impacting upon a new verb, ‘make’. The modality expressed this time is possibility, because the individual is stating that it is  possible  that running can make you ache.

Often ‘could’ can be used to replace can to express modality in a slightly different way. Look at the first example for can again – if you changed ‘I can run’ to ‘I could run’ you are still expressing ability, but you are now expressing past ability instead. Try replacing could in the other two sentences too. You’ll notice that it can still be used to seek permission, and express possibility, but it just sounds slightly different and may be interpreted slightly differently by the reader or listener.

‘I may swim tomorrow’ – ‘may’ is being used here to express both possibility  and  probability. Because it could be both possible and probable that the individual swims tomorrow.

‘May I swim tomorrow?’ – in this instance we have simply moved the positioning of the words to create a new sentence. In this case the individual is seeking permission, so the modality expressed is permission again.

In much the same was as could related to can, might relates to may. Try changing may in the above sentences, you’ll notice that might and may are interchangeable and both can be used to express probability, possibility, and permission.

‘You must raise your hand before you speak’ – the modal verb ‘must’ is being used to express the modality of obligation by impacting upon the verb ‘raise’. The speaker is telling somebody what they are  obliged  to do, so must is being used to show that raising your hand is an obligation.

‘You must not speak out of turn’ – in this sentence by adding the word ‘not’ between the modal verb and the verb ‘speak’, the modality that is being expressed is prohibition, because the speaker is telling somebody what they are  prohibited  from doing.

‘You should sing more often’ – this sentence is used to express the modality of advice. This is because the modal verb ‘should’ is being used to indicate that somebody is giving the advice to sing more to somebody else.

‘I should visit my mother’ – interestingly, should can also be used to express the modality of obligation, but in a slightly weaker sense than ‘must’ above. Here the speaker is stating that they ‘should’ visit their mother, which hints at an obligation, but not whether or not they will meet that obligation.

There are many other examples of modal verbs expressing different modalities towards different verbs, but hopefully this guide has gone some way to helping you understand modal verbs enough for you to go and use them, identify them, and understand their purpose in a sentence.

Modal Verbs

In this section, we are going to take a look at the modal verb in a little more detail as well as some examples of how it can be used, giving you a greater understanding of its function.

Modal Verbs List

Modal verbs list : the modals and modal phrases (semi-modals) in English are:

Mustn’t

  • Have to/ Has to

Don’t/ Doesn’t have to

Modal verbs rules.

There are certain rules which surround the use of modal verbs, for example the word ‘to’ must never be used after a modal verb. Learning these rules and how a modal verb can function within a sentence can greatly help you in forming grammatically correct sentences.

The verb “ will ” is used to express:

  • Promise: Don’t worry, I will be here.
  • Instant decision: I will take these books with me.
  • Invitation/Offer: Will you give me a chance?
  • Certain prediction: John Smith will be the next President.
  • Future tense auxiliary: Tomorrow I will be in New York.

The verb “ shall ” is used to express:

  • Asking what to do: Shall I get the phone? Or will you?
  • Offer: Shall I call a cab?
  • Suggestion: Shall I call again on Thursday?

The verb “ would ” is used to express:

  • Asking for permission: Would you mind if I opened the window?
  • Request: Would you make dinner?
  • Making arrangements: Would you be available at 6 pm tonight?
  • Invitation: Would you like to go out sometimes?
  • Preferences: Would you prefer the window seat or the aisle?

The verb “ should ” is used to express:

  • Advice: You should visit your dentist at least twice a year.
  • Recommending action: You really should go to the new museum on Main Street.
  • Uncertain prediction: I posted the cheque yesterday so it should arrive this week.
  • Logical deduction: I’ve revised so I should be ready for the test.

The verb “ought to” is used to express:

  • Advice: You ought to have come to the meeting. It was interesting.
  • Logical deduction: 30$ ought to be enough for the taxi.

The verb “ must ” is used to express:

  • Obligation/necessity: I must memorize all of these rules about tenses.
  • Deduction: She lied to the police. She must be the murderer.

The verb “ musn’t ” (must not) is used to express:

  • Prohibition: You mustn’t smoke in this restaurant. It’s forbidden.

The verb “ may ” is used to express:

  • Possibility: Richard may be coming to see us tomorrow.
  • Ask for permission: May I borrow your dictionary?

The verb “ might ” is used to express:

  • Slight possibility: It looks nice, but it might be very expensive.
  • The past form of “may” in reported speech: The President said he might come.

The verb “ can ” is used to express:

  • Ability: David can speak three languages.
  • Permission (informal): Can I sit in that chair please?
  • Offers: Can I carry the luggage for you?

The verb “could” is used to express:

  • Request: Could I borrow your dictionary?
  • Suggestion: Could you say it again more slowly?
  • Ability in the past: I think we could have another Gulf War .
  • Asking for permission: Could I open the window?

Have to/has to

The verb “ have to/has to ” is used to express:

  • External Obligation: You have to take off your shoes before you get into the mosque.

“Don’t/Doesn’t have to” is used to express:

  • Is not necessary: You don’t have to do all the exercises, only the first one.

Modal Verbs | Chart

Modal Verbs in English

Using modal verbs to express ability

List of Modals of Ability :

  • Could/Couldn’t

Modal Verbs: A Complete Grammar Guide about Modal Verb 1

Using modal verbs for asking permissions:

Modal Verbs: A Complete Grammar Guide about Modal Verb 2

Modal Verb Video

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Creative Resources for ESL/EFL Teachers

modal verbs conversation questions

Modal Verbs Conversation Questions, Use, and Examples

Practice modal verbs with conversation questions, watch video explanation and study example sentences.

What are modal verbs? According to Merriam-Webster , a modal verb is a verb (such as  can, could, shall, should, ought to, will , or  would ) that is usually used with another verb to express ideas such as possibility, necessity, and permission.

Modal verbs and their meanings.

canability
permission
She speak play several musical instruments.
They work on the project now.
couldpolite request
past ability
suggestion
possibility
you help me, please?
He climb trees when he was a kid.
You focus on the problem now.
This be the solution we need. 
maypossibility
permission
This help us save the environment.
You leave.
mightpossibilityThese numbers be wrong.
willfuture
polite request
The prices go up.
you open the door for me?
wouldoffering, inviting
polite request
you join us for dinner?
you check this report for me?
shouldadvising, suggesting
expectation
You stop smoking.
It start raining soon.
mustobligation, necessity
conclusion
You submit the application by Friday.
This car looks luxurious. It be very expensive.
mustn’tprohibition Passengers mustn’t talk to the driver.

I also recommend this wonderful video by Khan Academy . You can assign it as homework, it explains modal verbs in a very approachable and enjoyable way.

short essay with modal verbs

Practice modal verbs with Quizlet.

(Choose Flashcards in the Study mode in the bottom right corner, and click on the arrows above it to switch between front and back sides.)

Modal verbs conversation questions

1) Is there anything you can’t do and would like to learn?

2) What are the three things you can do best?

3) Name three things you may do this weekend.

4) Name three things you may not do at school.

5) Should students be allowed to eat during lessons? Why or why not?

6) Name two things you must do every day.

7) Name two things you mustn’t do at home.

8) What activities couldn’t you do last year because of the pandemic?

9) Name three things you could do when you were younger but can’t do anymore.

10) Is there anything you can do better than your parents?

Other resources

Conversation Questions Gerunds and Infinitives: ESL Speaking Activity

Conversation Questions Conditionals: ESL Speaking Activity

Conversation Questions: Present Perfect and Past Simple

Present Tenses Exercises: Present Simple and Continuous

Conversation Questions: Future Tenses

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Using Modal Verbs Correctly in GCSE Grammar

Using Modal Verbs Correctly in GCSE Grammar

Modal verbs are an essential component of English grammar, adding nuance and precision to sentences by expressing abilities, possibilities, permissions, obligations, and more. For GCSE students, mastering modal verbs is crucial for both written and spoken communication, enhancing clarity and variety in their language use. This essay explores the various modal verbs, their functions, correct usage, common mistakes, and strategies for mastering them.

Understanding Modal Verbs

Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that modify the main verb in a sentence to convey different shades of meaning. The primary modal verbs in English include can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, and would. Each modal verb serves multiple purposes, depending on the context in which it is used.

Can and Could

Can is used to express ability, possibility, or permission in the present or future.

  • Ability : “She can swim.”
  • Possibility : “It can rain tomorrow.”
  • Permission : “Can I leave early?”

Could is the past form of can, but it is also used to express possibility or polite requests.

  • Past Ability : “She could swim when she was five.”
  • Possibility : “It could rain later.”
  • Polite Request : “Could you help me?”

May and Might

May is used to express permission or possibility.

  • Permission : “May I come in?”
  • Possibility : “It may rain tomorrow.”

Might is often used to express a lower possibility than may.

  • Possibility : “It might rain tomorrow.”

Must is used to express obligation or strong necessity, and also to infer logical conclusions.

  • Obligation/Necessity : “You must finish your homework.”
  • Logical Conclusion : “She must be at home; her car is parked outside.”

Shall and Should

Shall is used to indicate future actions, often in formal or legal contexts, and to offer suggestions.

  • Future Action : “I shall return.”
  • Suggestions : “Shall we dance?”

Should is used to express advice, recommendations, or expectations.

  • Advice/Recommendation : “You should see a doctor.”
  • Expectation : “The train should arrive soon.”

Will and Would

Will is used to express future intentions, promises, or spontaneous decisions.

  • Future Intention : “I will go to the store.”
  • Promise : “I will help you with your homework.”
  • Spontaneous Decision : “I think I will have tea.”

Would is the past form of will, but it is also used to express polite requests, habitual actions in the past, or hypothetical situations.

  • Polite Request : “Would you pass the salt?”
  • Habitual Past Action : “When we were kids, we would play outside.”
  • Hypothetical Situation : “I would travel the world if I had the money.”

Functions and Correct Usage of Modal Verbs

Expressing Ability

Can and could are commonly used to express ability. Can is used for present abilities, while could is used for past abilities.

  • Present Ability : “She can speak three languages.”
  • Past Ability : “He could run fast when he was younger.”

Expressing Possibility

Can, could, may, and might are used to express different degrees of possibility.

  • High Possibility : “It can rain tomorrow.” / “It may rain tomorrow.”
  • Medium Possibility : “It could rain tomorrow.”
  • Low Possibility : “It might rain tomorrow.”

Expressing Permission

Can, could, and may are used to grant or seek permission.

  • Seeking Permission : “Can I use your phone?” / “May I use your phone?” / “Could I use your phone?”
  • Granting Permission : “You can go now.” / “You may go now.”

Expressing Obligation and Necessity

Must and should are used to express obligation and necessity, with must indicating a stronger obligation.

  • Strong Obligation/Necessity : “You must wear a seatbelt.”
  • Advice/Recommendation : “You should study for your exam.”

Expressing Future Intentions and Promises

Will and shall are used to indicate future actions, intentions, and promises.

  • Future Intention : “I will visit you tomorrow.”
  • Promise : “I will always be there for you.”
  • Formal Future Action : “We shall overcome this challenge.”

Expressing Politeness and Hypothetical Situations

Could and would are used for polite requests and hypothetical situations.

  • Polite Request : “Could you please open the window?” / “Would you mind if I sat here?”
  • Hypothetical Situation : “If I were you, I would take the job.”

Common Mistakes with Modal Verbs

Using the Wrong Modal Verb

Choosing the wrong modal verb can change the meaning of a sentence or make it grammatically incorrect.

  • Incorrect : “He must can swim.”
  • Correct : “He must be able to swim.”

Mixing Tenses Incorrectly

Modal verbs should be used consistently with the correct tense to maintain clarity.

  • Incorrect : “She will can attend the meeting.”
  • Correct : “She will be able to attend the meeting.”

Overusing Modal Verbs

Overusing modal verbs can make writing repetitive and less effective.

  • Incorrect : “You should, could, and might consider your options.”
  • Correct : “You might consider your options.”

Negation Errors

Negating modal verbs correctly is essential for conveying the intended meaning.

  • Incorrect : “You don’t must go.”
  • Correct : “You must not go.”

Strategies for Mastering Modal Verbs

Practice Through Writing and Speaking

Regular practice in both writing and speaking can help solidify the correct use of modal verbs. Exercises, such as writing sentences or paragraphs using specific modal verbs, can be very effective.

  • Exercise : Write ten sentences using different modal verbs to express various functions (ability, possibility, permission, etc.).

Contextual Learning

Learning modal verbs in context helps understand their nuances and appropriate usage. Reading books, articles, and essays, and noting the use of modal verbs can provide practical examples.

  • Activity : Read a news article and highlight all the modal verbs used. Discuss why each one was used in its particular context.

Peer Review and Feedback

Engaging in peer review sessions where students check each other’s work for correct use of modal verbs can provide valuable feedback and different perspectives.

  • Activity : Exchange essays with a classmate and review the use of modal verbs. Provide feedback on any incorrect usage or areas for improvement.

Using Grammar Tools and Resources

Grammar tools and resources, such as grammar books, online exercises, and language apps, can offer additional practice and clarification on the use of modal verbs.

  • Resource : Use an online grammar checker to review your writing for correct use of modal verbs.

Understanding Common Expressions

Familiarizing oneself with common expressions and phrases that use modal verbs can aid in mastering their use.

  • Examples : “May I help you?” / “You must be joking.” / “Would you like some tea?”

Practical Examples and Exercises

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate modal verb.

  • She _____ (can/may) speak three languages.
  • _____ (Could/Should) you please pass the salt?
  • You _____ (must/might) finish your homework before you go out.
  • It _____ (might/must) rain later, so take an umbrella.
  • When we were kids, we _____ (would/will) play outside every day.

Exercise 2: Sentence Transformation

Transform the following sentences using a different modal verb without changing the meaning.

  • She is able to swim. (can)
  • He is allowed to stay out late. (may)
  • It is possible that they will arrive soon. (might)
  • You are required to wear a uniform. (must)
  • It was customary for us to visit our grandparents every Sunday. (would)

Exercise 3: Identifying Errors

Identify and correct the errors in the following sentences.

  • She will can attend the meeting.
  • You don’t must go.
  • Could you to help me with this?
  • He must to be at home.
  • You should, could, and might consider your options.

Exercise 4: Contextual Usage

Write a short paragraph about your future plans, using at least five different modal verbs.

Exercise 5: Dialogue Practice

Create a dialogue between two friends discussing their weekend plans, using modal verbs to express ability, possibility, permission, and obligations.

Mastering the use of modal verbs is essential for GCSE students to enhance their grammar skills and achieve clarity and precision in their writing and speaking. Modal verbs add layers of meaning to sentences, enabling students to express abilities, possibilities, permissions, obligations, and more with subtlety and accuracy. Understanding the functions and correct usage of each modal verb, avoiding common mistakes, and practicing through various exercises and real-life contexts can significantly improve students’ command of English grammar. By mastering modal verbs, students can communicate more effectively, both in their academic endeavors and in everyday interactions, paving the way for greater success in their GCSE exams and beyond.

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Modal verbs

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Using Modal Verbs in IELTS

This IELTS lesson is about modal verbs and how they can be used to improve your writing, though this is also relevant to speaking.

You are likely to use these a lot in your essay writing for task 2 , particularly if you are writing an essay which needs to give solutions to a problem. They are also important to help in clarifying the certainty with which you are making a point, which is important for your writing.

The examiner will expect you to be competent in using these to award you a higher band score.

What are modal verbs?

Modal Verbs are used commonly in English to add further information to the main verb. They are added to a sentence to show things such as  possibility, ability, regret , or  necessity . 

They are auxiliary or 'helping' verbs, which means they cannot be used on their own but must be used with the main verb.


May
Might
Can
Could
Shall
Should
Will
Would
Must

 

 

go

 

 

Ought
Need
Have

 

to go

How are  they used?

As you can see from the table, these verbs are used with a main verb and are followed by the bare infinitive (bare means no “ to ”). The exceptions are ‘ ought ’, ' need ’ and ‘ have ’ which are followed by the infinitive (with “to”).

More in-depth grammar explanations of modal verbs can be found here  but carry on reading below to see how modals can be used in IELTS.

Common Use in IELTS Task 2

Three important functions of modal verbs when you are writing or speaking for IELTS are:

  • discussing degrees of certainty
  • making suggestions . 
  • hypothetical situations

1) Degrees of Certainty

Will, may, might and could are common to make logical deductions about a situation or the future, which you often need to do in task 2:

Children with no father as a role model  will  become criminals. (100%)

Children with no father as a role model  may  become criminals. (Possible)

Children with no father as a role model  could  become criminals. (Possible)

Which of these sentences do you think is incorrect?

Hopefully you worked out that the first one is wrong. This is a common mistake to see in IELTS essays. The grammar is ok, but it is not possible to conclude that all children with no father as a role model will become criminals!

Be careful when you are making assessments in this way. 

‘ Will ' is 100% going to happen, so avoid using it to make generalizations about everybody/everything unless you know it is 100% true.  (There are other ways to make it less certain e.g. “ will possibly ”).

When you are writing IELTS essays, it's unusual that you will have evidence with you or that you can use to show 100% what you are saying is true. So the second two are better in this situation.

2) Suggestions

Must, should, ought to, have to and could are often used to make suggestions for solving a problem.  It is common in task 2 to get a question asking you to discuss a problem and suggest solutions.

Governments  must/have to/need to  take action to tackle global warming.  (strong obligation) 

Parents  should/ought to  stop their children watching too much television. (Strong suggestion)

Individuals  could  recycle more (possibility).

Take a look at this model essay on global warming and note how modal verbs are used in the second body paragraph to discuss the solutions.

3) Hypothetical Situations

It is common to use would and could to discuss hypothetical situations. If something is hypothetical, this means in effect it has not happened. You are discussing an unreal situation in the future or imagining something.

For example:

If the government spent more money on hospitals, people  would  be healthier.

It is something that has not happened and you don't know if it will.

See this  model essay on human cloning  and notice the use of  would  and  could  throughout the essay. Cloning of human beings has not happened yet, so it is a hypothetical situation

It may also be used in your speaking - see this lesson on  hypothetical situations for part 2 of the speaking test .

Try a modal verbs quiz

More IELTS Grammar Lessons & Practice:

short essay with modal verbs

Using Phrasal Verbs in IELTS

Learn how phrasal verbs can be used in the IELTS Test. The meaning of these verbs are explained and there are quizzes to practice them.

Gerund and Infinitive Exercises

Try these Gerund and Infinitive Exercises to help you understanding of which one to choose.

short essay with modal verbs

Passive Voice for IELTS Processes

Passive Voice is specifically needed for IELTS is if you get a process diagram in Academic IELTS Task 1. In this case you will use it throughout your explanation of the process. When we use the passive voice, the person or thing receiving the action becomes the subject.

Gerunds and the IELTS Test

Gerunds are an important grammar form to understand and to be able to use effectively in the IELTS test and in your English more generally.

Adverbial Clauses: Why they are important for IELTS

Adverbial Clauses are a type of complex sentence that are important to use in IELTS writing.

Sentence Clauses: Independent and Dependent Clauses

Learn what sentence clauses are and why they are important to know for IELTS as they are critical for writing complex sentences.

Complex Sentences: Why are they Important for IELTS?

Complex Sentences are made up of an independent and dependent clause. This lessons teaches you how to write them with practice exercises.

Avoiding Subject Verb Agreement Errors

Avoiding subject verb agreement is important for IELTS as errors with this will look basic and noticeable.

Relative Clauses: Use them correctly in your IELTS essay

Relative Clauses are a type of complex sentence and it's important to use them in your writing to get a band 6 or above.

Gerund and Infinitive: Choosing the right one

Choosing between gerund and Infinitive can be difficult as some verbs can only be followed by the gerund and some only the infinitive.

Understand Parallel Structure to Improve IELTS Grammar

Parallel Structure is when you balance the grammatical structures of words, clauses, sentences, or phrases in your writing.

Noun Clauses for Complex Sentences in IELTS

A noun clause is another type of complex sentence that is essential to get a high band in IELTS.

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Modal Verbs – The Condiments of English

short essay with modal verbs

A modal verb is like a flavoursome ingredient in a recipe; a dose of garlic. Our spaghetti bolognaise might be perfectly acceptable in its un-garlicked form. But it is transformed by the addition of a clove of the Vampire defeating food. When we learn English language online , understanding how verbs are used in English is crucial to developing fluency in the language.

Like the bulbous garlic, modal verbs change other verbs in a sentence. In fact, they make the sentence adopt to one of the following four purposes:

To show a level of possibility;

To indicate ability;

To show obligation – a requirement to do something;

To give permission.

Main Modal Verbs

There are ten main modal verbs. Here is the modal verb list:

Should and Ought to

person studying from computer

Let us look at each modal verb in turn:

This verb is used when the certainty that something will be done is to be communicated.

I will pay my student fees.

When the modal verb ‘will’ is used, that means that the action is certain to take place .

The modal verb ‘would’ indicates a condition . It is possible that the action will take place, but another condition has to be met. The phrase including the modal verb will be followed by a connective such as ‘if’.

I would pay my student fees if I had the money in my account.

‘Would’ is used in the past tense.

When the modal verbs ‘should’ or ‘ought to’ are used it indicates that there is a requirement to carry out an action, but it has yet been completed . There could be many reasons why that obligation has not been enacted. Usually, a phrase, clause or sentence will explain why the action has not yet been completed. The connective ‘but’ often links the clauses.

I should pay my fees, but I have not gotten around to doing it.

The slight difference between the two modal verbs is that ‘ought to’ implies slightly less of an obligation than ‘should’ .

I ought to go to the bank to pay my fees, but I have a bad cold.

‘Could’ is a modal verb that indicates the ability is there to complete an action . However, the implication is offered that there is a reason for not having done what is required.

I could pay my fees. I have chosen not to.

This is a powerful verb and is often used to imply a problem.

modal verbs

This is a modal verb which has a double purpose. It indicates the permission to do something . It also shows that there is the possibility that something may happen .

When used to give permission it will often appear in a simple clause, sentence or phrase.

You may pay my fees on my behalf

As we have seen, the verb can also be used to show the possibility that something will happen.

My fees may be paid.

In this sense, the verb is interchangeable with might, although it implies a stronger likelihood of something happening.

‘May’ cannot be used as a verb in the past tense.

This model verb demonstrates the ability to undertake an action .

My fees are overdue. I can pay them on Monday.

‘Can’ cannot be used as a model verb in the past tense. The word states that something will happen, rather than has happened.

This verb shows that something will happen . However, a condition is often implied. Often the connective ‘when’ is used to connect clauses if ‘shall’ is the form of the verb used.

I shall pay my fees as soon as my funds clear.

The modal verb ‘must’ says that something will definitely be done, or happen . It is a stronger word than will, implying that the action to take place is extremely important.

I must pay my fees, or I will not be allowed to attend lectures.

This modal verb implies the possibility of something . When ‘might’ is used, the outcome is in the balance. The implication is that something could happen, or perhaps it will not.

I might pay my fees.

Often there is a hidden implication that there is a reason why the action will not take place.  Sometimes, that reason will be made explicit.

I might pay my fees. It depends on whether my classes get better.

Exercise about Modals Verbs

The difference between many modal verbs is subtle, and even native speakers will confuse them from time to time.  The exercise below gives a chance to practise their use.

Simply fill in the correct modal verb.

I ______ go to the club with you on Saturday, but I am visiting my parents and am not sure if they have made plans for me.

When we finish our coffee, we ______ protect the environment and recycle our cup.

I ______ definitely finish my essay on time.  I plan to work on it all weekend.

After we have bought our tickets, we ______ go to the concert.

‘Now I am here, I ______ give you your Christmas gift. Here it is.’

When we left our grandparents’ house, they ______ always give me a pound.

When the lion attacks, the giraffe ______ escape. It has an even chance of doing so.

‘Thank you, you ______ pay for my coffee.’

When you enter the country, you ______ have your passport.

When we go to dinner at a friend’s house, we ______ take a small gift.

Could – there is a chance of going to the club, but it is not certain. Also acceptable is ‘might’.

Should – protecting the environment is something that is a definite responsibility. Also just acceptable is ‘ought to’.

_Will – h_ere, the plan is that the essay is completed. Also acceptable is ‘can’.

Shall – this is the best answer because the condition for attending the concert is the purchase of tickets. However, ‘can’ is also acceptable.

Can – giving the gift was not a possibility until the person arrived. Also acceptable is ‘shall’.

Would – the event happened in the past, and the award of a pound was conditional on the visit to the grandparents.

Might – the chance is equal. ‘Could’ is acceptable, although the implication is that it probably will not escape.

May – permission is politely given. ‘Can’ just about passes, although this is a less polite way of giving permission.

Must – the only acceptable answer because it is an absolute condition.

Ought to – it is something that should happen, but does not absolutely have to happen. Also acceptable are ‘should’ and ‘could’.

Article related: Reported Speech – English Grammar

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ESSAY SAUCE

ESSAY SAUCE

FOR STUDENTS : ALL THE INGREDIENTS OF A GOOD ESSAY

Modal verbs

A modal verb is a verb which is used with another verb to express such ideas as possibility, ability, and necessity, e.g. computers can perform a wide range of tasks. Modal verbs in English can present some difficulties for learners. They occur quite frequently in the academic context and the range and variety of their use can make understanding and using them correctly quite a challenge.

The nine main modal verbs express a range of meanings, which may differ very subtly.

Modal verbs are used to indicate the writer’s or speaker’s attitude to what he or she is writing or saying. There are three main categories of meaning.

  • possibility/ability/permission
  • obligation/necessity
  • intention/prediction

Expressing possibility, ability and permission

The most common meaning for modal verbs in the category of possibility, ability and permission is logical possibility: indicating what is or is not possible from what we know about a situation. All four modals in this category (can, could, may, might) are used in this way.

Can is frequently used to indicate ability.

The use of can and may to ask or give someone permission is common in speech but rare in formal writing, because it involves personal interaction.

Expressing obligation and necessity, intention and prediction

In the category of modal verbs expressing obligation and necessity there are two main meanings found in formal writing. The first meaning is that of personal obligation; the writer states what he/she and perhaps the reader is obliged to do/believe etc. using a modal verb such as must or should.

The second meaning is that of logical necessity; the writer states what he/she wants the reader to conclude from the information presented using a modal verb such as must or should.

Using modal verbs to express intention and prediction clearly relates to future time. This is a large and complex area of English grammar, and here the focus is on the modals will, would and shall; how they are used and how they can be distinguished.

will and would are commonly used in formal writing to predict future events or states that are not caused by anyone. Very often the period or point in time is not mentioned.

shall is used to indicate the writer’s personal intention. This is a formal and conventional use of this modal.

Helpful sites for practice

Online English Grammar http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/index.cfm Online grammar explanations with examples.

Gerunds and Infinitives http://www.reocities.com/gwyni_99/gerinfless.html Grammar explanation plus links to practice exercises and a useful verb list.

Gerunds, Participle and Infinitives http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_verbals.html Detailed information with practice in this area of grammar.

Language and Learning Online http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/index.xml A comprehensive set of resources for grammar. Provided by Monash University, Australia.

Dependent Prepositions http://www.wordskills.com/general/prepositions.pdf A pdf reference list of common dependent prepositions.

British Council Learnenglish Grammar Games http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/grammar-games Grammar games to practise most aspects of grammar.

Grammar Terms Quiz http://esl.about.com/library/quiz/bl_grammarterms.htm Test your knowledge of grammar terminology by matching examples to grammar terms.

Using English.com – Glossary of grammatical terms http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary.html A comprehensive online glossary of grammatical terms.

Englishpage.com http://www.englishpage.com/index.html Grammar practice website.

Englishclub.com http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/index.htm Grammar practice website.

SOURCE: The Open University, 2011

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LOGO-LEWA3 (Learn English With Africa) October

  • Added: 28/02/2021
  • Course type: Advanced stories (B1-B2) , Grammar Lessons

Captivating Short Story: THE WILL, with Modals or Modal Verbs in English, Level B1-B2

Papa Dorido was a strong-willed man. His will was made of iron and rarely bent. The old man created his own rules and followed them religiously as if his whole life depended on them. It was rare for him to deviate from his course and when he did, hell broke loose.

Hell broke loose in Papa Dorido’s household when he decided to marry a second wife.

“I won’t tolerate this,” his wife of twenty-five years told him when she heard his intentions.

“I will marry her, whether you want it or not, “ he’d insisted, reminding her that he was the head of the family and he could do exactly as he wished.

Mary, or Mama Dorido as she was fondly called, wished she could turn back the hands of time. Her husband had been adorable when they first met. Then, he had none of that stubbornness that sullied his character now, turning him into a stranger who was willing to inflict the burden of a second wife upon her flail shoulders.

She’d never pictured herself as a first wife. Neither did she dream of becoming a rival to a would-be-mistress that would compete with her for her husband’s attention.

She was yet to discover the measure of Papa Dorido’s will.☹️

Will and Would (Modal Verbs or Modal Auxiliaries such as WILL), Learn English With Africa, February 2021

One morning, when Mama Dorido was sweeping her yard, a young woman arrived. She was tall, light-skinned and wore long braids that reached her waist. A friend of hers had shown her the way to their house, she explained, and she was glad that she’d been able to come all this way.

Mama Dorido listened and stared and couldn’t believe how fate had thrown this young woman in her path. Her beauty was stunning, the older woman judged and appraised and felt threatened at the same time. She wondered why she didn’t muster the courage to tell this girl to go back where she’d come from before the situation became worse.

“You look very tired. Let me offer you some water. You must be thirsty. Will you have some water?” she asked the stranger hastily and dashed to the kitchen without waiting for an answer. When she came back, the young lady had found a sweet spot on the veranda. It suddenly dawned upon Mama Dorido that this temporary visit could turn into a permanent one if she wasn’t careful enough. She could feel her heart pounding and she tried her best not to betray her feelings when she handed the other woman a glass of water.

“We might as well introduce each other,” the young lady started and Mama Dorido tightened her fists because she knew that this was the day when her life was going to change forever.

“You must be Steve’s wife.”

Steve. Steven Dorido. This young lady was calling her husband Steve.

“Yes, I am,” she replied. “Who are you?” she asked in return and the stranger laughed so loudly, Mama Dorido felt ashamed because she knew that there was no joke in her question.

“We should get to know each other because we are going to be co-wives,” the cheeky girl, who could be no more than twenty, spat the truth in her face and Mama Dorido didn’t know how to react. Her motherly instinct wanted her to be protective of this child who didn’t know anything about life. Yet, her wifely side told her that she had to act fiercely and mercilessly towards this rival who was about to endanger her marriage.

As soon as she recovered her spirits she said:

“I can’t let you destroy my marriage. Mr Dorido and I have been married for more than twenty years. This is actually our 25 th -year anniversary. Why do you want to bring sorrow into this blessed union? What’s your name, by the way? Who are your parents? Who is your mother? Do I know her?”

“My name is Joyce and my surname doesn’t actually matter to you, does it? You shouldn’t be worried like that. Why must you worry about people whom you don’t even know?”

Mama Dorido didn’t even know how to answer all those questions. Her own mind was laden with unanswered questions and she wanted Mr Dorido, the coward, to be there so that he could explain why a stranger had had the audacity to storm her house and leave havoc in her wake.

“I can’t answer those questions for you, you know. Steve should be here. If I were you, I’d stop worrying though. I mean no harm and I come with really good intentions. Why don’t we have a cup of tea so that we can talk about our future arrangements?”🤗

May and Might (Modal Verbs such as WILL), Learn English With Africa

“Go away and don’t come back,” Mama Dorido said calmly but her blood was boiling and she wanted to inflict harm upon this person who was hurting her for no reason at all. Yet, her guardian angel told her that she’d better preserve her emotions. May she not see the light of day tomorrow, she cursed but immediately removed the curse because her pastor had told her that it was bad to wish ill on other people, especially our enemies. “We must love one another,” he’d said. That was yet to happen.

“I will come back,” Joyce said joyfully. She stood up and headed for the gate. Mama Dorido watched as the girl’s braids swayed playfully and relentlessly behind her back. “Papa Dorido will pay for this,” the older woman told herself as she stood up and started searching for her broom.

That evening, Papa Dorido arrived earlier than usual. He was carrying two heavy suitcases and he placed them in one of the spare rooms. Mama Dorido was in utter shock. She didn’t want to jump into conclusions but she was staring at the truth.

“Those must be the young woman’s suitcases,” she said and got no answer. Instead, Papa Dorido smiled and his wife felt as if the world was conspiring against her.

“I won’t let you destroy our marriage. I can’t let you do that.”

Papa Dorido did not reply. He asked for his food instead. Mama Dorido went to fetch some nsima and meat stew with vegetables and placed everything in front of her husband.

“Everything will be all right. You just have to accept the situation. Relationships evolve and this will be for the better. You’d better get used to the idea.”

Mama Dorido thought of her four children and how they would think of this new arrangement. Her two boys Khama and Chiku would definitely frown upon their father’s choice but they wouldn’t condemn him. Her two daughters, young as they were, would understand her plight and might feel sorry for her but they couldn’t do anything for their mother. It was up to her to make Papa Dorido change his mind.

Unfortunately, time was against her. Joyce was in such a hurry to fill her shoes that she arrived the following day. She still had her long braids and her wide smile and she sailed into the house with no care in the world because she knew that the master of the house was on her side and nothing could happen to her.😀

SHALL and SHOULD_Modal Verbs such as WILL_Learn English With Africa

Time to Move on

There was no wedding and no official ceremony, yet Joyce settled into her new role with ease. She had a separate wing in the house and managed her own life with her new husband but things were never the same for Mama Dorido. She resented her husband and the choice he’d made with all her mind and heart.

“You should leave him. You can’t stay in this situation,” her best friend advised her. “It’s better to live with less money than suffer under the hands of such an inconsiderate man.”

Mama Dorido would not think of ending it all. She believed in marriage and staying with the person you loved no matter the hardships that one went through. Would it be wise to leave everything behind her just because a twenty-year old girl had captured the eternal interest of her husband? Hadn’t she worked hard all her life to reach where they were? Would it be wise to leave everything she had fought for for this brainless girl who knew nothing about the world?

Yet, the brainless girl had ensnared her husband and she had taken over her life, destroying her dreams and her once-perfect life.

Life continued under the bright sun and the thin moon and soon, Joyce was expecting Papa Dorido’s first child. Mama Dorido lost hope about getting her former life back. She understood that this wasn’t a mere whim and that her husband was to share. She accepted the situation and the new wife. Life must go on, she told herself.

Therefore, Mama Dorido vowed to help her rival whenever she could. She told herself that she could turn this situation into a positive and productive one and that nothing but good would come out of all this.  Thus she helped her whenever she could and in fact, she found out that that wasn’t difficult at all.  It was actually Mama Dorido who accompanied Joyce to the hospital to give birth. Afterwards, the women’s friendship was sealed and no one, even Papa Dorido, could come between them to ruin their friendship.

One day, the two women were sitting on the veranda, chatting peacefully and tending to some chores at the same time. Papa Dorido arrived early from work and found his wives sitting together. He took a chair from the house and placed it a bit far from them but within hearing distance.

“My dear wives, I have a special favour to ask from you. May I tell you something that will change how things work in this house? However, don’t worry. It’s for the common good.”

Mama Dorido studied his face and knew that nothing good would come out of that mouth. He was yet to drop another bomb.

“I would like to marry a third wife.”

Joyce started wailing and Mama Dorido reached out to her and started patting her back, reassuring her that her life didn’t depend on Papa Dorido’s and that she’d be better off on her own.

“What is that you want Papa Dorido? Aren’t two wives enough for you?” Mama Dorido finally asked her husband who didn’t give a single care in the world. He rather looked at her pensively, already thinking about life with his future wife.

“It is not a crime to have three wives.”😮

Can and Could (Lesson on Modal Verbs)

A Battle of Wills

He spat on the ground and cast a disdainful glance at Joyce who was still crying.

“Stop whining,  will you?” He didn’t get the response he wanted so he stood up unceremoniously and stormed out of the compound.

“I will marry a third wife and there is nothing you can do about it.”

The two women watched helplessly as Papa Dorido disappeared once again only to return the following day with two heavy suitcases, a girl who could be barely eighteen and a one-year old child.

“Meet my son.”

Mama Dorido said nothing and the eighteen-year-old said nothing and the child said nothing.

“Shall you say something?” he asked and finding no answer he summoned the new wife into her new house and helped her find new quarters.

Later that evening, the two first wives summoned some courage and went into the house to discover what had transpired in their absence.

“From now on,” Papa Dorido declared. “Mimi will be sleeping in what used to be Joyce’s quarters. Joyce, ask Mama Dorido to find you a new place to sleep.”

Joyce awoke from her slumber and started yelling at Papa Dorido.

“Should I throw you out?” Papa Dorido asked and warned her at the same time. “Do you want to find yourself begging in the streets?”

Joyce shut up and yet remembered how Papa Dorido had been so sweet and considerate when they’d just met. He would visit her house where she used to live with her parents every single day. Now, he was discarding her like a piece of rubbish and she did not understand.

“I shall never trust any other man again,” she told herself bitterly and cast sorrowful looks at her new born who was nestled in her right arm. Joyce pictured her future. “She will be a doctor,” she told herself. “My daughter will be a doctor and she shall not follow her mother’s footsteps. I can make this work. I will make this work.”

The two women did not feel jealous when it came to Mimi. They felt sorry for her because they knew what her fate would be in a matter of weeks or months.

Papa Dorido was a contented man. He had three wives and six children and nothing could ruin his happiness, even the sour looks that he often caught on Joyce’s face.

Mimi was happy in her own way too. She had a roof above her head and her son had a father and new-found half-brothers and half-sisters. Life was finally good for her even though she was ‘supposedly’ married to a man who was old enough to be her father.😨

MUST (Modal Verbs or Modal Auxiliaries such as WILL)_Learn English With Africa_February

Life Goes on

She had another son with Papa Dorido and another one. Life couldn’t be any better. Her children were a joy to see. They were beautiful and intelligent and they could do so many things. They made Papa Dorido happy.

Yet, Papa Dorido would need one more wife and two more children to be finally contented with life. Yet, life had other plans for him.

Life finally caught up with him and his day of reckoning came. He feared he was about to make his final curtain call. His wives were surprised to see him arrive early from work, shivering and crying because he was not feeling well, not at all.

“Can you make me some tea please?”

Joyce rushed to prepare him a cup of his favourite Chombe and Mimi rushed to his side, making him as comfortable as he could be.

Jackie, Papa Dorido’s latest wife started wailing because she was young and she could not handle the emotional toil.

Papa Dorido told his wives to gather around him because he had an important message for them.

“I’m not getting a new wife,” he joked when he saw the worried looks on their faces.

“I’m afraid I might not last long in this world. I have lived a long life and you have all made me happy in your own way. I now have to depart this world and I want to leave it peacefully and with a clean conscience .”

Jackie wailed even louder and she could not be consoled. Mama Dorido told her to keep quiet because Papa Dorido had something important to say. When Jackie’s crying subsided, Papa Dorido continued.

“First of all, my dear wives. Thank you for your patience all these years and thank you for your support. I don’t know what would have happened if you had decided to leave me. May you live long lives so that you can take care of our children.”

“You will remain with us Papa Dorido. You won’t go anywhere else,” Mimi said as she held his hand and wished that her husband would remain with them forever.

“It is a tough world out there and I don’t want you to suffer when I’m gone. I’ve carefully thought about each one of you,” he coughed and painfully pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. “Can you read this Mama Dorido?”

Mama Dorido was surprised but she took the piece of paper anyway. She started reading its contents.

“At the event of my death, I would like my property to be equally shared among all my children and their mothers because they have been such a source of joy and contentment to me.”

His wives stared at him and said nothing. It was Mama Dorido who broke the silence.

“Thank you Papa Dorido for taking such a wise decision. I never thought you would come to your senses one day, but here you are.”

Papa Dorido coughed and waited for Mimi to speak.

“Life has not been easy but we have learned to live with each other. Your decision will make us live peacefully together when you are no longer with us.”

In fact, Papa Dorido did not die that day nor the next. He lived long after this salient moment, long enough to take in a fifth wife who bore him three more children as Mama Dorido and her co-wives watched helplessly from afar. That’s a story for another day though. Would you love to hear it?😮‍💨

Listen to the story:

Further exploration: (the will).

Download worksheets:

  • Short Story, THE WILL , with Modals or Modal Verbs, Learn English With Africa, February 2021
  • Characteristics of Modal Verbs, Learn English With Africa, February 2021
  • Short Story, DON’T GO THERE with Modal Verbs, Level B1-B2, Learn English With Africa, October 2016

Watch: The Story Behind ‘THE WILL’

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About the Author

Thandi Ngwira Gatignol Learn English With Africa March 2023

Thandi Ngwira Gatignol is the founder of  Learn English With Africa . She was born on June 11th, 1981 in Blantyre, Malawi. When she was 19, she left her country of birth for France. She currently lives with her two daughters and husband in Poland.

Thandi holds a Bachelor’s degree in English studies obtained at the Université Paris X Nanterre in France and a Certificate in Journalism from Malawi. She has taught English as a French Ministry of Education certified teacher both in France and in Poland. She speaks six languages fluently, including French, Polish and Italian. She is now learning Kiswahili, German and Spanish.  Salt No More  is her debut novel and you can find her other books  here  on the website or on  Amazon .

Course Title:  English Short Story: THE WILL, with Modals or Modal Verbs, Level B1-B2 © Learn English With Africa, May 2019

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  • English Grammar
  • Parts of Speech
  • Modal Verbs

Modal Verbs – Meaning, Usage & Examples

Learn all about modal verbs and their usage in sentences. Check out the examples and the practice exercise to have a better idea.

Table of Contents

What are modal verbs, examples of modal verbs.

  • How to Use Modal Verbs in Sentences?

Test Your Knowledge of Modal Verbs

Frequently asked questions on modal verbs in english grammar.

short essay with modal verbs

Modal verbs are helping verbs that are used along with main verbs to represent the ability, possibility and probability of a subject to do an action and emphasise the necessity of an action.

Let us look at some examples of modal verbs used as auxiliary verbs and their functions.

Can

Used to denote the ability of the subject to perform an action or to request permission to perform an action

Could

Used to denote the ability of the subject to perform an action or an offer made by the subject to perform an action

May

Used to denote the probability of an action taking place or to request permission to perform an action

Might

Used to denote the probability of an action taking place or to make suggestions

Will

Used to denote the surety of an action taking place or the assurance of the subject to perform a particular action

Would

Used to show politeness when requesting or asking if an action can be done by the subject.

Shall

Used to denote the surety of an action taking place or the assurance of the subject to perform a particular action

Should

Used to denote the necessity of an action to be done by the subject

Must

Used to denote the strong obligation or necessity for the subject to do or not do an action

Ought to

Used to denote the obligation of the subject to perform a particular action

How to Use Modal Verbs in Sentences

Given below are a few examples of how modal verbs can be used to indicate the possibility or probability of an action taking place.

  • It might rain in the evening.
  • I think they will reach Coimbatore by 8 pm.
  • Can you pick up my brother from school on your way home tomorrow?
  • I could make some time to help you with your assignments.
  • Your friends may come to visit you next week.
  • It would not be possible for you to complete all of it by tomorrow evening.

Here are some examples of modal verbs being used to show the necessity and obligation of the subject to perform a particular set of actions.

  • All students of this institution ought to abide by the rules and instructions provided.
  • All employees should follow the dress code strictly.
  • You must get yourself checked before the situation becomes worse.
  • Your sister will have to apply for a leave request if she wants to take a month’s leave.

Modal verbs can be used to make offers, suggestions and requests. Check out the examples given below for know-how.

  • It would be better if you did it the other way.
  • I could help you if you want.
  • Shall I bring you some water to drink?
  • Could you please pass me the science record?
  • Will you please take care of my son for an hour? I have some grocery shopping to be done.

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate modal verb in the following sentences:

1. ________ you be able to bring your camera when you come?

2. Priya __________ apologise for the confusion that was caused yesterday because of her carelessness.

3. You _______ finish this first and then start with the other one.

4. ________ I make some tea for you?

5. I ______ make sure to keep everything ready by the time they reach the railway station.

6. You _______ see to it that the students are standing according to their roll numbers.

7. ______ I come in?

8. She _______ find it interesting as she likes reading adventure stories.

9. Do you have any idea how much all of this _______ cost?

10. ______ you please help me find my keys?

Ready to find out if you used the right modal verbs? Let us check.

1. Would you be able to bring your camera when you come?

2. Priya should/ought to apologise for the confusion that was caused yesterday because of her carelessness.

3. You could finish this first and then start with the other one.

4. Shall I make some tea for you?

5. I will make sure to keep everything ready by the time they reach the railway station.

6. You must see to it that the students are standing according to their roll numbers.

7. Can/Shall/May I come in?

8. She might find it interesting as she likes reading adventure stories.

9. Do you have any idea how much all of this would cost?

10. Can/Would/Could/Will you please help me find my keys?

What are modal verbs?

What are the examples of modal verbs.

Will, would, can, could, may, might, shall, should, must, ought to are the modal verbs in the English language.

How do you use modal verbs in sentences?

Here are some examples of how you can use modal verbs in sentences.

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short essay with modal verbs

  • > Journals
  • > English Today
  • > Volume 38 Issue 2
  • > On English modals, modal meaning and argument structure

short essay with modal verbs

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On english modals, modal meaning and argument structure.

A response to Fong

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 October 2020

In an interesting paper, Fong (2020) raises objections to my approach to English modals (and modality in general) which he views as too general and not fully compliant with the postulates of Construction Grammar. In this response paper, I intend to explain in some depth the benefits of my approach, as well as the reasons why Construction Grammar, in particular Cognitive Construction Grammar (Goldberg, 1995, 2006, 2019), needs to be interrogated and adapted as a conceptual framework to explain language learning and processing.

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  • Volume 38, Issue 2
  • Sergio Torres–Martínez
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266078420000437

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English Quarter 2 Module 4 Argumentative Texts Modal Verbs and Modal Adverbs (1)

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Short Story - Modal Verbs

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Modal verbs through short stories.

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Short Story - Modal Verbs

COMMENTS

  1. What Is a Modal Verb?

    Modal verbs (also called modal auxiliary verbs) are used along with a main verb to express ability, possibility, necessity, and permission. They are a type of auxiliary verb. For example, in the statement "I can drive," "can" is a modal verb indicating that the subject ("I") has the ability to perform the action of the verb ...

  2. Modals

    What this handout is about. Modal verbs (will, would, should, may, can, could, might, must) precede another verb. Modals do not have subject-verb agreement or take the infinitive "to" before the next verb. This handout shows how modals in academic writing can change a sentence's meaning into a prediction, suggestion, or a question.

  3. Unit 15 Modals

    modal + base form of main verb = complete verb. 2. Contractions are common are in modals, such as "shouldn't" and "mustn't". However, "may" and "might" do not have a contraction form. It is wrong to write "mayn't" and "mightn't". Small children mayn't stay ( may not stay) alone at home in the United States.

  4. The Writing Center

    Grammatical Form. Modals are a special type of verbs; they are followed by the base form of verbs (e.g. I should go, she must see, he can swim ). In addition to the simple form of modals, there are also other forms to express: past time 1: modal + have + Past Participle (e.g., may have submitted) passive voice 2: modal + be + Past Participle (e ...

  5. Modal verbs and modality

    Modal verbs and modality - English Grammar Today - a reference to written and spoken English grammar and usage - Cambridge Dictionary

  6. Modal Verbs: Useful Rules, List and Examples in English

    Should. Will. Would. Each of these modal verbs has a specific meaning and usage in English. For example, "can" is used to express ability, "may" is used to express possibility, and "must" is used to express necessity. Modal verbs are also used to create different tenses in English. For example, "could" is used to create the past ...

  7. Modal Verbs

    Here's an example of how a modal verb gives shades of meaning to a sentence. Trina and Joan play the piano. Trina and Joan might play the piano. Another verb always follows modal verbs in base form. Remember not to conjugate the verb. For example: Incorrect: She can plays the piano. Correct: She can play the piano.

  8. Modal Verbs: A Complete Grammar Guide about Modal Verb • 7ESL

    Modal verbs are a type of helping verbs that express possibility, necessity, permission, or ability in English. In this comprehensive grammar guide, you will learn the definition, rules, examples, and usage of modal verbs in different contexts and tenses. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, this webpage will help you master modal verbs with ease and confidence.

  9. Modal Verbs Conversation Questions, Use, and Examples

    According to Merriam-Webster, a modal verb is a verb (such as can, could, shall, should, ought to, will, or would) that is usually used with another verb to express ideas such as possibility, necessity, and permission. Modal verbs and their meanings. She can speak play several musical instruments. They can work on the project now.

  10. Using Modal Verbs Correctly in GCSE Grammar

    This essay explores the various modal verbs, their functions, correct usage, common mistakes, and strategies for mastering them. Understanding Modal Verbs. ... Write a short paragraph about your future plans, using at least five different modal verbs. Exercise 5: Dialogue Practice.

  11. Modal verbs (video)

    We also use modal verbs like this to talk about conditions, or stuff that isn't going to happen or maybe could happen. And so, for example, in this sentence, we would say "I would make the bed, but I'm tired." Because the possibility exists, however remote, that the bed would be made by me, but I don't feel like it.

  12. How to Use Modal Verbs for IELTS

    Using Modal Verbs in IELTS. This IELTS lesson is about modal verbs and how they can be used to improve your writing, though this is also relevant to speaking. You are likely to use these a lot in your essay writing for task 2, particularly if you are writing an essay which needs to give solutions to a problem. They are also important to help in ...

  13. Modal Verbs

    When the modal verb 'will' is used, that means that the action is certain to take place. Would. The modal verb 'would' indicates a condition. It is possible that the action will take place, but another condition has to be met. The phrase including the modal verb will be followed by a connective such as 'if'.

  14. Modal verbs

    Modal verbs. A modal verb is a verb which is used with another verb to express such ideas as possibility, ability, and necessity, e.g. computers can perform a wide range of tasks. Modal verbs in English can present some difficulties for learners. They occur quite frequently in the academic context and the range and variety of their use can make ...

  15. Intermediate Grammar: Modal Verbs for ESL

    Learn how to write a great short essay an English: https://esl-for-exam-preparation.teachable.com/p/intermediate-esl-short-essay-writing-course If you need t...

  16. Captivating Short Story: THE WILL, with Modals or Modal Verbs in

    Short Story, THE WILL, with Modals or Modal Verbs, Learn English With Africa, February 2021; Characteristics of Modal Verbs, Learn English With Africa, February 2021 ... Course Title: English Short Story: THE WILL, with Modals or Modal Verbs, Level B1-B2© Learn English With Africa, May 2019. Join us as a subscriber and gain full access to ...

  17. Modal Verbs

    Let us look at some examples of modal verbs used as auxiliary verbs and their functions. Modal Verb. Function. Can. Used to denote the ability of the subject to perform an action or to request permission to perform an action. Could. Used to denote the ability of the subject to perform an action or an offer made by the subject to perform an ...

  18. On English modals, modal meaning and argument structure

    A response to 'Taming English modals - how a construction grammar approach helps to understand modal verbs' by Sergio Torres-Martínez, English Today 138, 35 (2), 50-57, 2019. English Today CrossRef Google Scholar. Goldberg, A. E. 1995. Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

  19. English Quarter 2 Module 4 Argumentative Texts Modal Verbs and Modal

    CO_Q2_English 10_ Module 4. What is It. Modal Adverbs are used to modify specific verbs that consist of a linking verb (verb of. being) and sometimes another verb. Here are examples of modal adverbs: probably, possibly, evidently, certainly, surely, undoubtedly, seriously, clearly, obviously. 1.

  20. Short Story

    Short Story - Modal Verbs. Elisa Peña. Member for 2 years 1 month Age: 9+ Level: Intermediate. Language: English (en) ID: 2117094. 16/08/2022. Country code: HN. Country: Honduras. School subject: English as a Second Language (ESL) (1061958) Main content: Short Story (2009214) From worksheet author: Modal verbs through short stories. ...

  21. write a paragraph using at least 5 modals

    Answer:. The following paragraph contains 5 modal verbs in it: I have been moving across the globe; however, I feel I may not be doing so in the coming days. Recently I acquired a new office position that would demand most of my time. I shall, however, delegate most of my works.After a year or so, I will think of continuing with my travel business since I might have covered most of the work ...