Modal verbs are special verbs that are used to express various meanings like possibility, ability, permission, obligation, and necessity. They are different from other verbs because they do not have a past tense form and they do not take “-s” in the third person singular. In this article, we will discuss what modal verbs are and how they are used in English.
Modal verbs are often used to express possibility, which means the chance of something happening or being true. For example:
- It might rain tomorrow. (There is a possibility that it will rain tomorrow)
- She could be at the library. (It’s possible that she is at the library)
Modal verbs are also used to express ability, which means the capability of doing something. For example:
- I can speak Spanish. (I have the ability to speak Spanish)
- She knows how to play the piano. (She has the ability to play the piano)
Modal verbs are used to express permission, which means the authorization to do something. For example:
- Can I use your pen? (Asking for permission to use someone’s pen)
- You may leave now. (Giving permission to leave)
Modal verbs are also used to express obligation, which means the requirement to do something. For example:
- You must finish your homework before dinner. (Obligation to finish homework)
- He should study for his exams. (Advice to study for exams)
Modal verbs are used to express necessity, which means the need to do something. For example:
- We have to finish this project by tomorrow. (Necessity to finish the project)
- I need to buy groceries. (Necessity to buy groceries)
Common Modal Verbs
You can expand each verb to learn how it is used, with examples.
“Can” is used to express ability, possibility, or permission in the present tense.
- Example: I can swim. (Ability)
- Example: It can rain tomorrow. (Possibility)
- Example: Can I borrow your book? (Permission)
“May” is used to express possibility or permission in the present or future tense.
- Example: May I use the restroom? (Permission)
- Example: It may rain tomorrow. (Possibility)
“Might” is used to express possibility in the present or future tense.
- Example: I might go to the park later. (Possibility)
- Example: It might snow tomorrow. (Possibility)
“Could” is used to express possibility or ability in the past tense.
- Example: I could run fast when I was younger. (Ability in the past)
- Example: It could have been a mistake. (Possibility in the past)
“Should” is used to express obligation, recommendation, or expectation.
- Example: You should study for your exams. (Recommendation)
- Example: I should be home by 9 PM. (Expectation)
- Example: You should follow the rules. (Obligation)
“Would” is used to express habit, possibility, preference, or polite request in the past tense.
- Example: I would often go to the park on weekends. (Habit in the past)
- Example: It would rain every summer. (Possibility in the past)
- Example: I would prefer to have coffee instead of tea. (Preference)
- Example: Would you like to go to the movies with me? (Polite request)
“Will” is used to express future plans, decisions, or predictions.
- Example: I will finish my work tomorrow. (Future plan)
- Example: She will be here soon. (Prediction)
- Example: I will help you. (Decision)
“Must” is used to express necessity or strong obligation.
- Example: You must wear a seatbelt while driving. (Obligation)
- Example: I must go to the doctor. (Necessity)