How to use Modal Verbs in English Grammar
Modal verbs help student’s expand their use of sentences from simple statements and question to more complex statements. They are very useful for English learners to express probability, talk about habits, permission, give advice and talk about ability. Modal verbs are always used with another kind of verb making them a type of auxiliary verb.
What do we use Modal verbs for?
Some of these verbs are called ‘modals of deduction’ as they allow people to show certainty, speculation or probability about events. For example, an Easter party. We can use the modal to say how sure we are that it happened, is happening or will happen.
- It's sunny, so it must be boiling outside.
- It might snow on Monday.
- I don't know where the remote is. We could have missed the movie.
- This amount can’t be correct. I don’t pay $700 to watch Netflix Series.
To speak about habits and repeated activities in the past and present we use the words 'will' and 'would'.
- When I studied English in Cape Town, I would often go to the beach on Saturdays.
- Janine will always run late!
- Paolo will always have English interviews in the Morning.
- Parasto would go for long walks in the countryside.
3. Advice and Obligations
When we want to speak about necessary or unnecessary things or when we give advice, we use the words ‘must’ and ‘should’.
- Lente must do her housework.
- We must learn the first conditional tense to pass level test.
- You should stop smoking.
- You should maybe go to the doctor.
To speak about our abilities and skills or someone’s ability to do something we use the words 'can' and 'could'. We can also use the negative here by adding the word not.
- You can buy online English courses to improve your speaking.
- My mother could speak Korean very well.
- I can't find my copy of Charlotte’s Web.
- I couldn’t help James with the YouTube channel.
To ask for and give permission we use modal verbs like ‘can’, ‘may’ and ‘could’. We can also use the negative here to show something that is not allowed.
- Could I have today off, please?
- You maynot use the internet tonight.
- Can we go to the teacher?
- You can’t take the car today.
Special features of Modal verbs
1. Modal verbs don’t inflect so the third person singular they don’t use an 's and they don’t use -ing or -ed forms.
2. They make sentences into questions by inverting the sentence ('they can come' becomes 'can they come?'). This is done by putting the modal verb in front of the subject of the sentence.
3. They are followed directly by the infinitive of another verb (without 'to').
For a Modal verb song to remember all the rules look here:
Good Luck with Modal verbs, they are lots of fun to use!