Modals in English Grammar with Examples, Types, Rules, & Infographics
Modal verbs are a very important part of English grammar. They are used in many different ways, so it’s good to be familiar with them. Modals are auxiliary verbs that are used before the main verb in order to express ideas like a possibility, necessity, obligation, and permission. Modal verbs are followed by another verb in the simple present tense.
Modal Verbs in English Grammar
What are Modal Verbs in English?
Modal verbs are used to express ideas like a possibility, necessity, obligation, and permission. They are auxiliary verbs that are followed by another verb in the simple present tense. Modal verbs are an important part of English grammar.
When are Modal Verbs Used?
Modals are used often in English grammar; therefore it’s very important to know them and understand how to use them correctly. When you’re writing or speaking, modal verbs help give your sentence meaning and air of certainty or uncertainty depending on which modal verb is used. They can be very confusing for students, but there’s no need to worry because we will explain everything in detail and hope this article helps improve your understanding and usage of modals.
– Expressing an Opinion
- He may be the best player in the team.
- I think they should arrive soon.
– Giving Advice or an Opinion about Something
- I suggest you go to the police station now.
- You ought to take a break and get some rest.
– Offering and Refusing Permission (Modal + Verb + Direct object)
- May I borrow your pen?
- Can I sit here?
- I’m afraid we can’t allow that.
– Expressing Ability (Can/Could, Modal + Verb, etc.)
- Can you come tomorrow?
- Of course, he can!
- He couldn’t be happier.
– Expressing Possibility (May/Might, Modal + Verb, etc.)
- May I take your coat?
- She might arrive tonight.
- This might help you.
– Expressing Advice Or Opinion About Something (Modal + Verb + Preposition)
- Can I come with you?
- She should go to bed early.
- You should consider buying their car.
– Expressing Purpose (Modal + Verb+ Preposition)
- Shall we go for a drink?
- I’m leaving now so I’ll see you tomorrow!
Types of Modal Verbs
There are two types of modal verbs- primary modals and secondary modals.
Primary Modal Verbs
It is called “primary” because it can’t be used alone- they have to combine with another verb to form a ‘modal + main verb’ construction. These modals include: can/could/be able to must/have to ought/ought to may/might should would will/would will have been going to Primary modals do not change their forms for different subjects or number that’s why is no difference between singular and plural.
Secondary Modal Verbs
It is called “secondary” because they have to combine with another auxiliary verb, but it can stand alone as a modal’ modals include: will/would shall/should could may might should Primary modals change their forms for different subjects and number like he must, she can, etc. It’s not used as often as the primary modals, but it is very common in speech and casual written English.
Primary modals are used before another main verb.
– Carlos must bring his passport tomorrow. (obligation)
– David might want to stay until the weekend. (possibility)
A: Do you need help?
B: No, I can manage. (ability)
Secondary modals are used before another auxiliary verb.
– Can you type this for me?
– Yes, I can. (ability)
– Shall we go to the cinema tonight?
– Maybe, but I don’t know if I’m free. (permission)
A: Will you be able to come tomorrow?
B: No, unfortunately not! (unintentional ability)
The modal verbs which you might already know are can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, and would. If you want to learn more about modals in English then read on.
What are Modal Verbs that Expresses Possibility?
Modals express possibility: can, could, might, may, and must:
- “I can speak English.” (possibility)
- “We might go to the cinema tonight.” (possibility)
- “He may be late.” (possibility)
What are Modal Verbs that Expresses Necessity?
Modals express necessity: have to, need to, and ought to:
- We need to study more. (necessity)
- He has to wash his car today. (necessity)
- “She must do her homework now.” (necessity)
What are Auxiliary Verbs?
Auxiliary verbs are used along with verb to express additional information about time, negation, modality, etc. Auxiliary verbs are used with main verbs in order to express ideas of aspects like tense or mood.
What is Simplicity Present Tense?
A tense is a form of language which shows time. There are three basic tenses: past, present, and future. The present tense is one of the basic tenses, it’s used for actions that happen now or actions that will happen in the future.
What Does “Can” Mean?
Can ( can) is an auxiliary modal verb that is used to indicate possibility or ability. It’s followed by the main verb in the simple present tense. Can means “to be able to”.
- She can speak English.
- Can you drive a car?
How do We Use “can” as a Modal Verb?
We use modal verbs for possibility, ability, or permission. Modals are followed by another verb in the simple present tense. We use models to show our opinion on the subject. Can is used with the main verb in order to express ideas of opinions like a possibility, ability, and permission.
- He can be here any moment now. (possibility)
- He can’t be here even if he wants to. (impossibility)
How Do We Form Questions with Modal Verbs?
Modal verbs are not used to form questions. Questions are formed using do/does or another auxiliary verb like will or can.
- Can she sing? (NOT) What does it mean: Does she can sing? (possibility)
- Will you eat lunch with us? (permission)
How Do We Answer Questions With Modal Verbs?
We use the main verb in simple present tense and we omit the auxiliary verb ‘do’ and the main verb when we answer questions.
- Do you play chess? Yes, I do. / No, I don’t.
- Can he come tomorrow? Can + he + come = Yes, he can.
- Why did you turn the TV off? Why + did + you + turn = Why did you turn.
- What’s the matter? What + is + the = What is.
How Do We Use Modals To Express Ideas Of Obligation And Necessity?
Modal verbs can be used to express ideas like obligation, permission, and prohibition. We use modal verbs for opinions about what we think should or shouldn’t happen.
- It’s important for me to talk to him as soon as possible. (obligation)
- We’re not allowed to park here without a permit. (prohibition)
How Do We Use Modals With Obligation And Prohibition?
We use modal verbs before the main verb in the simple present tense. Modal verbs are followed by the main verb in the simple present tense. We use modal verbs for obligation and prohibition when we want to state our opinion on the subject.
- It’s important+for+me+to talk = It’s important for me to talk
- It’s important for you to show up on time.
- We’re not allowed to eat in class.
What is a Negative Sentence?
Negative sentences are formed using auxiliary verb ‘do’, the main verb in simple past tense and main verb when/not or another auxiliary verb like will or can.
- I didn’t have time for lunch today.
- You don’t speak English very well, do you?