Modal Verbs: Useful Rules, List and Examples in English 1

Modal Verbs: Useful Rules, List and Examples in English

Modal Verbs! Learn modal verb definition and how to use modal verbs in English with useful grammar rules, ESL infographic and example sentences.

Modal Verbs

List of Modal Verbs

What is a modal verb?

The modal verbs of English are a small class of auxiliary verbs used to express possibility, obligation, advice, permission, ability, …

Modal verbs list in the English language: Can, Could, May, Might, Will, Would, Must, Shall, Should, Ought to…

Modal Verbs: Rules & Examples

Learn how and when to use modal verbs in English with rules and example sentences.

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.

2. ‘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.

3. ‘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.

4. ‘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.

5. ‘Will’ and ‘would’ are used to refer to habits and inclinations.

For example:

  • When I was a child, I would often climb trees.
  • I will never refuse you anything.
  • He would never do such a thing.

Note: 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’.

Modal Verbs in English | Infographic

Modal Verbs

Modal Verbs: Useful Rules, List and Examples in English 2

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