Learn English Grammar

Modal Verbs

Auxiliary Verb/Friendly Verb

What we can express through using modal verbs?

Main Points for Consideration

Modal Verbs are auxiliary verbs.

Modal verb is used together with the main verb of the sentence.

Modal verb is known as friendly verb.

Cambridge Dictionary defines Modal verbs and modality as “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.” (cambridge.org)

Download PDF file of Modal Verbs -Uses ,Examples and Rules

Ask permission, and make requests and offersMay I borrow your dictionary? (Ask for permission) Could you give me your camera? (Polite request) Could I use your phone? (Formal/Polite) Will you give me your pen? (Request) Can I ask you a question?  (Informal) May I use your phone? (More Formal/Polite) Would you make dinner? (Less Direct Request)
 Possibility, Probability,Rajeev may be coming to see us tomorrow. (Possibility) Dancer can arrive on time. (Strong possibility) Dance may reach on time. (Weak possibility) Rainy season is at peak time. It can rain today. (Strong Possibility) We are enjoying sunny weather. It may rain today. (Weak possibility) The dog might bark when we pass by the gate. (Weak possibility) They may come by car. (Weak possibility)
CertaintyIt’s getting dark. It must be quite late. (Reasons for your belief) It’s nearly six o’clock. They should arrive soon. (Reasons for your suggestion)
PredictionIt will rain tomorrow.
Advice,You should stop smoking. I would advise you to keep working on your grammar.
AbilityShe can speak six languages. I can speak English. She can dance very well. He can swim like a fish. (Skill or general abilities_
PermissionCould I leave early today, please? Students can use calculators during the exam. May I leave the room?
Requests,  Offers, Invitations,Could I borrow your dictionary? (Request) Can I have your surname? (Request) Can we do anything for you? (Offers) Will you pass me the salt? (Request) Will you come for dinner on Saturday? (Invitation)
Obligations and necessityI must talk to you about the new project. I must memories the speech. Seat belts must be worn even in the back of the car. I have to study for the exam.
SuggestionsCould you say it again more slowly? (Suggestion)
Command    Jack must report to the office at 10.am. You have to sing a song. You must wear a coat. It’s raining. Will you be quiet, please! (Command)
Offer, Promise, Decision, Determination, Threat, Willingness,I will lend you some money. (Promise) I will be there for you. Don’t worry. (Promise) I will wear my orange shirt. (Decision) I will complete the task by 6 p.m. (Determination) I will teach you a lesson. (Threat) I will do the washing-up. (Willingness)
General TruthStress can increase your blood pressure, Exercise can help reduce stress.
RecommendI’d recommend that you try this size. (formal)
Ability We use could to talk about past ability:When I was young, I could easily touch my toes.
RegretHe could have been a doctor. I could have been famous.
Sentence Structure Modal Verb +Main Verb (in general)

Modal Verbs Uses and Examples

Speakers often have different opinions about the same thing. Situation/Context is more important for using “Modal Verbs” to write meaningful sentence and expressing your feelings and moods. A single modal verb can be used in a different context.

We use “modal verbs” for expressing some hypothetical conditions.

Modal verbs always come directly before the main verb.

With modal verbs, use the infinitive form of the main verb without “to”/ They are followed directly by the infinitive of another verb (without ‘to’).

Traditionally, in more formal and polite usage, may is better for permission.  We use ‘could’ for requesting something in polite tone.

Will is much more common than shall in both speaking and writing.

Could is more formal and polite than can.

 May is another more formal and polite way of asking for permission

We use could you … and would you … as polite ways of telling or asking someone to do something

Can I ask a question, please?Could I ask a question, please?
Could you take a message, please?Would you carry this for me, please?
May I ask a question, please?May we go home now?

More examples with reference to context

The Prime Minister must decide in the next month.more general references to the future
I must try harder next time.more general references to the future
You needn’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.no obligation,
You don’t need to worry about it. I’ll take care of it.no obligation,
You must not park outside the entrance.Rules and laws
It can be dangerous to cycle in the city.general truth or known fact, or a strong possibility

Reference and Resources