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:
|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|