Modal verbs

The modal verbs in English grammar are can, could, may, might, must, need not, shall/will, should/ought to.

The use of modal verbs :

  • ability
  • permission
  • possibility
  • obligation
  • Prohibition
  • Lack of necessity
  • Advice

The differences between the modal verbs and the normal verbs:

1: They don’t use an ‘s’ for the third person singular.

2: They make questions by inversion (‘she can go’ becomes ‘can she go?’).

3: They are followed directly by the infinitive of another verb (without ‘to’).

The usage of modals verbs :

  • Can : to express ability, for example: I can speak a little Spanish.
  • may: to express possibility, for example : I may be home late.
  • must : to express obligation, for example: I must go now, or to express strong belief She, for example : she must be over 90 years old.
  • Should : to give advice, for example :you must stop smoking.
  • Would : to request or offer, for example : would you like a cup of tea.

Examples :

  • Can I borrow your pencil??
  • Can I speak to Sara??
  • May I ask you a few questions?

We use the modals in the previous questions to ask for permission.

  • John can speak three languages.
  • I will be able to help you tomorrow.

So, we the use the modals here to express the ability.

  • Adam  may be coming to see us tomorrow.
  • This game might be very dangerous.

The usage of modals here for the possibility.

  • I must memorize all the rules about modals.
  • You mustn’t smoke here. It’s forbidden.

We use the modal must here to express the necessity.

  • You should take care of your health.
  • You must try to lose weight.

We use modals to say some advices.


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