Modal Verbs


Modal Verbs Explanation

Modal verbs function only as auxiliaries. Therefore, we call them modal auxiliaries. Here are the modal verbs we might need when we speak English :
  1. can
  2. could
  3. may 
  4. might
  5. shall
  6. should
  7. will
  8. would
  9. must
  10. ought to
The modal verbs above have different meaning depending on the situation in which they are used. 


 Modal Auxiliaries Functions/description

 can

  1. It means be able to.
  2. It refers to present and future. 
  3. It expresses ability. Example : Sue can speak Spanish and Russian.
  4. It expresses possibility. Example : It can rain in October here.
  5. It can be used to request and grant permission. Example : Can I come in?
  6. can + have + Verb III refers to possibility in the past. Example : They can have planned the terror.

 could

  1. It means be able to.
  2. It refers to present, past and future.
  3. It expresses ability in the past. Example : When I was 5, I could play in the rain for hours.
  4. It expresses possibility in the past but It did not happen. Example :   She was lucky when she fell off the bicycle.  She could have hurt herself.
  5. It can be used to request and grant more formal and polite permission. Example : Could I borrow your pencil for a moment?
  6. Could + have + Verb III refers to ability that was not used. Example : He could have joined us, but he didn't get our invitation in time.

 may

  1. It expresses possibility. Example : It may rain, according to the weather forecast.
  2. It can be used to request and grant more formal and polite permission. Example : May I sit here?
  3. May + have + Verb III refers to speculation about the possibility that something happened in the indefinite past. Example : The lecturer's car is not here. He may have left.

 might

  1. It expresses lighter or  possibility than that expressed by may. Example : It might snow in October; we can never be sure.
  2. It can be used to request and grant very very formal and very polite permission. Example : Might I be excused early?
  3. It replaces may when used in the past form. Example : The forecast says it may rain tomorrow. The forecast said it might rain tomorrow.
  4. Might + have + verb III is used to express past possibility or speculation. Example : We didn't speak to him. He might have got angry.

 shall

  1. It is used to request for agreement or an offer to do something for someone. Example : Shall I answer the phone for you?
  2. It can replace will to express future action, but only for subject I and we. Example : I shall leave for Copenhagen tomorrow.

 should

  1. It is used to express an advice. Example : The film was great. You should go and see it.
  2. should + have + verb III is used to express the right thing to do in the past. Example : He didn't pass the exam because he didn't study well. He should have studied well.
  3. It is used to express less certainty. Example : If you should see Christ, can you tell him to call me? or should you see Christ, can you tell him to call me?

 will

  1. It is used to express future action. Example : I will do it tomorrow.
  2. It is used to express agreement, mild promise, or willingness. Example : I will do whatever you want. 
  3. It is used to express polite request. Example : Will you carry the bag for me?

 would

  1.  It expresses an offer or invitation. Example : Would you like a cup of coffee? or Would you like to come to birthday party tomorrow?
  2. It expresses what one wants politely. Example : I'd like a room, please. 
  3. It expresses the result of condition in a contrary-to-fact situation. ( Conditional Sentences Type II) Example : If I were rich, I would buy you a house. It means I'm not rich, so I will not buy you a house.
  4. It expresses the result of condition in a contrary-to-fact situation in the past ( Conditional Sentences Type III). Example : If she had driven the car more slowly, she wouldn't have had an accident. It means she didn't drive the car slowly so she had an accident.
  5. It expresses polite request. Example : Would you be kind to type a letter for me?
  6. It expresses a habitual action in the past. Example : When I was young, I would play game online for hours.

 must

  1. It expresses the necessity or  obligation. Example : People must work to eat.
  2. In negative sentences, it expresses prohibition. Example : You must not smoke in this room.
  3. Must + have + verb III expresses an obvious conclusion in the past. Example : The door is locked. He must have gone out.

 ought to

 
  1. It is used to express an advice. Example : The film was great. You ought to go and see it.
  2. should + have + verb III is used to express the right thing to do in the past. Example : He didn't pass the exam because he didn't study well. He ought to have studied well.


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