Modal Verbs

There are 10 modal verbs in the English language:

  • - Can
  • - Could
  • - May
  • - Might
  • - Will
  • - Would
  • - Must
  • - Shall
  • - Should
  • - Ought to

Uses of Modal Verbs:

  1. 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.
  1. ‘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.
  1. ‘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.
  1. ‘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.
  1. ‘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.

  1. When used with the third person singular (he, she), they don’t require the addition of an ‘s’.
  2. They can be used to form questions by inverting the structure of the sentence.
  3. They can be followed directly by the verb, without the use of ‘to’.