Modal Verbs with Examples

Modal Verbs with Examples

What are Modal Verbs?

Modals, or modal verbs, are special verbs that act differently from normal verbs like study, work, or play. Modals provide more information about how the main verb function. They have several varieties of communicative functions.

Examples of modal verbs:

  • You must study hard to succeed.
  • Can you help me with my homework?
  • May I have a cup of tea, please!
  • Could you close the window?
  • You must be quiet during exams.

Characteristics of modal verbs:

  • Modals stay as they are. They never change their form that is to say you cannot add endings such as “s” “ed” or “ing”.
  • They are always followed by an infinitive without the bare infinitive “to”.
  • The use of modal verbs allows speakers to express ability, obligation, certainty possibility, etc.

List of modal verbs in English:

Can, may, will, would, shall, should, must, could.

When to use modal verbs?

Modal verbs can be used to express:

  • 1. Permission
  • 2. Ability
  • 3. Obligation
  • 4. Prohibition
  • 5. Lack of necessity
  • 6. Advice
  • 1. possibility
  • 8. probability

Modal verbs with examples:

The following table contains all modal verbs in English along with expressing and examples for each:

Modal Verb Expressing Example
Between Strong obligation You must stop when the traffic lights turn red.
logical conclusion / Certainty He must be very tired. He’s been working all day long.
Can ability I can swim.
permission Can I use your phone,please?
possibility Smoking can cause cancer.
Could ability in the past When I was younger, I could run fast.
polite permission Excuse me, could I just say something?
possibility It could rain tomorrow!
May permission May I use your phone, please?
possibility, probability It may rain tomorrow!
Might polite permission Might I suggest an idea?
possibility, probability I might go on holiday to Australia next year.
Need not lack of necessity/absence of obligation I need not buy tomatoes. There are plenty of tomatoes in the fridge.
Should/ought to 50 % obligation I should / ought to see a doctor. I have a terrible headache.
advice You should / ought to revise your lessons
logical conclusion He should / ought to be very tired. He’s been working all day long.
Had better Advice You’d better revise your lessons

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