How to Use Modal Verbs?

by | Sep 28, 2018 | English Grammar Lesson | 8 comments

How to use Modal Verbs in English? In this English grammar lesson you will learn how to use Modal verbs to better express ability, possibility, permission or obligation when speaking in English.

Watch the video lesson to learn how to use Modal Verbs when speaking in English

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What is a Modal Verb?
A modal is a type of auxiliary (helping) verb that is used to express: ability, possibility, permission or obligation.

1. Can/could

I can help you with your homework. – expressing ability
John can’t speak Spanish. – lack of ability
I could speak some Italian while I was in high school. – expressing ability in the past
You can reach her at her office number. – expressing possibility
You can’t enter in that room, there is a meeting. – expressing impossibility
You can borrow my car. – giving permission
Could I talk to the manager, please? – asking permission (polite)

2. May/might

You may start your exam now. – formal permission
You may not wear short to church. – formal prohibition
May I help you? – polite request
We may go out to dinner tonight. Do you want to join us? – possibility
Sarah may not come to your birthday party, she is sick. – negative possibility
We might as well be strangers. – to make a suggestion (when there is no better alternative)
You might like to try this salmon. – polite suggestion

3. Shall/should/ought to

Shall I answer the phone? – to offer assistance or polite suggestion
Should we go to the doctor? – to offer assistance or polite suggestion
I shouldn’t be late, I’m already in the train. – a prediction or expectation
You should wear that dress more often. – to give advice
You ought to have your car serviced before the winter. – to give advice

4. Must/have to/need to

You must have a passport to cross the border. – necessity or requirement
I had to work late last night. – necessity in the past
You must/have to go to that restaurant. The food is excellent. – to persuade
You must not sit on the grass. – prohibited or forbidden

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