There are 10 modal verbs in the English language:
- - Can
- - Could
- - May
- - Might
- - Will
- - Would
- - Must
- - Shall
- - Should
- - Ought to
Uses of Modal Verbs:
- To indicate that something is probable or possible, or not so. For example:
- - It is sunny today; it must be warm outside. = It is sunny today; it is probably warm outside.
- - His mobile is not reachable; he may/might/could be travelling by metro. = His mobile is not reachable; it is possible that he is travelling by metro.
- - This can’t be our bill. = It is not possible that this is our bill.
- ‘Can’ and ‘could’ are used to refer to skills and abilities. For example:
- - He can cover a hundred metres in under ten seconds.
- - My father could see perfectly before the age of fifty.
- - I can’t ride a horse.
- ‘Must’ is used to indicate that something is necessary or of extreme importance, and ‘should’ is used to suggest that something is advisable. For example:
- - You must do your homework.
- - You mustn’t skip school.
- - You should say sorry.
- - You shouldn’t smoke.
- ‘Can’, ‘could’ and ‘may’ are used to ask for, give and withhold permission. For example:
- - Can I try my hand at it?
- - Could we disperse early today?
- - You may not enter the premises.
- ‘Will’ and ‘would’ are used to refer to habits and inclinations.
- - When I was a child, I would often climb trees.
- - I will never refuse you anything.
- - He would never do such a thing.
These verbs differ from ordinary verbs in 3 respects.
- When used with the third person singular (he, she), they don’t require the addition of an ‘s’.
- They can be used to form questions by inverting the structure of the sentence.
- They can be followed directly by the verb, without the use of ‘to’.