Modal Verb: Definition, Examples and List of Modal Verbs in English

Modal Verbs! What is a modal verb? A modal verb might also be referred to as a ‘helping’ verb and these are very common within the English language. There are, however, certain rules which surround their use, for example the word ‘to’ must never be used after a modal verb. Learning these rules and how a modal verb can function within a sentence can greatly help you in forming grammatically correct sentences.

In this section, we are going to take a look at the modal verb in a little more detail as well as some examples of how it can be used, giving you a greater understanding of its function.

Learn the useful list of modal verbs and how to use modal verbs in English with useful grammar rules, example sentences and ESL picture.

What Is A Modal Verb?

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: the modals and modal phrases (semi-modals) in English are:

  • Will
  • Shall
  • Would
  • Should
  • Ought to
  • Must
  • Mustn’t
  • May
  • Might
  • Can
  • Could
  • Have to/ Has to
  • Don’t/ Doesn’t have to

Modal Verbs List

Learn the list of modal verbs in English with grammar rules and example sentences.

Will

The verb “will” is used to express:

Promise

Example:

Don’t worry, I will be here.

Instant decision

Example:

I will take these books with me.

Invitation/Offer

Example:

Will you give me a chance?

Certain prediction

Example:

John Smith will be the next President.

Future tense auxiliary

Example:

Tomorrow I will be in New York.

Shall

The verb “shall” is used to express:

Asking what to do

Example:

Shall I get the phone? Or will you?

Offer

Example:

Shall I call a cab?

Suggestion

Example:

Shall I call again on Thursday?

Would

The verb “would” is used to express:

Asking for permission

Example:

Would you mind if I opened the window?

Request

Example:

Would you make dinner?

Making arrangements

Would you be available at 6 pm tonight?

Invitation

Example:

Would you like to go out sometimes?

Preferences

Example:

Would you prefer the window seat or the aisle?

Should

The verb “should” is used to express:

Advice

Example:

You should visit your dentist at least twice a year.

Recommending action

Example:

You really should go to the new museum on Main Street.

Uncertain prediction

Example:

I posted the cheque yesterday so it should arrive this week.

Logical deduction

Example:

I’ve revised so I should be ready for the test.

Ought to

The verb “ought to” is used to express:

Advice

Example:

You ought to have come to the meeting. It was interesting.

Logical deduction

Example:

30$ ought to be enough for the taxi.

Must

The verb “must” is used to express:

Obligation/ Necessity

Example:

I must memorize all of these rules about tenses.

Deduction

Example:

She lied to the police. She must be the murderer.

Mustn’t

The verb “musn’t” (must not) is used to express:

Prohibition

Example:

You mustn’t smoke in this restaurant. It’s forbidden.

May

The verb “may” is used to express:

Possibility

Example:

Richard may be coming to see us tomorrow.

Ask for permission

Example:

May I borrow your dictionary?

Might

The verb “might” is used to express:

Slight possibility

Example:

It looks nice, but it might be very expensive.

Past form of “may” in reported speech

Example:

The President said he might come.

Can

The verb “can” is used to express:

Ability

Example:

David can speak three languages.

Permission (informal)

Example:

Can I sit in that chair please?

Offers

Example:

Can I carry the luggage for you?

Could

The verb “could” is used to express:

Request

Example:

Could I borrow your dictionary?

Suggestion

Example:

Could you say it again more slowly?

Ability in the past

Example:

I think we could have another Gulf War.

Asking for permission

Example:

Could I open the window?

Have to/ Has to

The verb “have to/has to” is used to express:

External Obligation

Example:

You have to take off your shoes before you get into the mosque.

Don’t/ Doesn’t have to

“Don’t/Doesn’t have to” is used to express:

Is not necessary

Example:

You don’t have to do all the exercises, only the first one.

Modal Verbs Chart

Modal Verbs in English

Using Modal Verbs To Express Ability

List of Modals of Ability:

  • Be able to
  • Can/Can’t
  • Be able to
  • Could/Couldn’t
  • Managed to
  • Be able to
  • Can/can’t

Using Modal Verbs for Asking Permissions

Learn how to use these modals for asking permissions in English.

  • Can
  • Could
  • May
  • Would

 

Modal Verbs Video

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Nathalie Fortuné
Nathalie Fortuné
2 years ago

Thanks a lot for thèse lessons, it’s very important for me because i want tout speak english fluently. I’m an Haitian.
Could i have a lessons Every Day please?

Sidibe fanta
Sidibe fanta
2 years ago

Hello I’m fanta from Mali I really enjoy this lesson it easy the way it was explain once again thanks

Chetta Rella
Chetta Rella
1 year ago

Thank you so much. This lesson will help me explaine the modals verbs to my students.

Chetta Rella
Chetta Rella
1 year ago

Correction explain

Han Ratana
Han Ratana
1 year ago

Great job

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