What are Modal Verbs

Introduction to Model Verbs

1. What are modal verbs?

Modal verbs, also known as modal auxiliary verbs, are a unique category of verbs in English grammar that play a crucial role in expressing various attitudes, abilities, permissions, obligations, and possibilities.

A modal verb is a type of auxiliary verb that is used to express ability, possibility, intention and necessity.

These verbs, including can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would, and ought to, work in conjunction with the base form of the main verb to convey specific meanings. Modal verbs have distinct characteristics, such as the absence of inflections for tense and the inability to function as the main verb in a sentence.

Understanding modal verbs is essential for achieving accuracy and fluency in English, as they greatly impact the tone, intention, and overall meaning of a sentence.

1.1 Commonly used Model verbs:

The following are some modal verbs:

  • can

  • could

  • may

  • might

  • must

  • will

  • shall

  • should

Modal verbs, such as can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would, and ought to, have distinct characteristics that set them apart from other verbs. They do not undergo changes for tense and lack the ability to function as the main verb in a sentence. Instead, they work in conjunction with the base form of the main verb to express various attitudes, abilities, permissions, obligations, and possibilities. Understanding these unique features is crucial for mastering the usage of modal verbs in English grammar.

2. Modal Verb Constructions (sentence structure):

2.1 Modal verb + base verb

  • She can swim.
  • They could come to the party.
  • We may visit the museum.
  • He might stay for dinner.
  • You should study for the exam.

2.2 Modal verb + adverb/adjective + base verb

Note: adverbs / adjectives are underlined

  • She can easily solve the puzzle.
  • They could happily join the celebration.
  • We may eagerly explore the new city.
  • He might reluctantly accept the job offer.
  • You should carefully read the instructions.

2.3 Modal verb + "have" + past participle

  • I must have completed my homework by now.
  • They should have arrived at the party already.
  • She might have forgotten her keys at home.
  • We could have finished the project earlier.
  • He would have studied harder for the exam.

3. Using modal verbs:

3.1 Can:

It is used for giving permission, ability to do something, and request.

For ability:

  • Can he drive a car?

    Modal Verb
  • She can make a dress.

  • Holly can speak French.

For Permission:

  • Can I use your pencil?

  • Can I sit here?

  • Can I go now?

For Request:

  • Can you give me this pencil?

  • Can I have some juice please?

  • Can you help me please?

3.2 Could:

For Request:

  • Could I sit here please?

  • Could you give me a eraser please?

For Past ability:

  • I could play tennis when i was young.

  • She could make chocolate in her young age.

3.3 May:

It is used for possibility, permission, and wishes.

For Possibility:

  • It may be cold tomorrow.

  • Alice may be tired.

  • She may be late for school.

For Permission:

  • May I use your pen?

  • May I go now?

  • May I sit here?

For Expressing Wishes:

  • May god bless you.

  • May all your dreams come true.

  • May you live long.

3.4 Must:

It is used for necessity and recommendation.

For Necessity:

  • I must go to the market today.

    Modal Verb
  • You must finish this work now.

  • Children must do their homework.

For Recommendation:

  • You must see this film.

  • You must eat this cake.

3.5 Might:

It is used for possibility.

  • She might go to meet her friend.

  • He might have finished his work now.

  • You might have lost that paper.

3.6 Should:

It is used to give advice or recommendation.

  • You should focus more on your study.

  • She should eat healthy food.

  • He should not drive so fast.

3.7 Shall:

For offer:

  • Shall we start the game?

  • Shall I pick you up from office?

4. Common mistakes when using modal verbs

1. Wrong tense: When using modal verbs, it is important to be aware of common mistakes that can occur. One common error is using a modal verb in the wrong tense, such as using "can" instead of "could" for past ability.

2. Ommiting the base form of the verb: Another mistake is failing to include the base form of the verb after the modal verb, leading to incomplete sentences.

3. Redundant modals: Additionally, be cautious with the use of double modals or redundant modals, which can create confusion.

By recognizing and avoiding these common mistakes, you can enhance your accuracy in using modal verbs.

See Also:

Mixed Worksheets: