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MODALS IN ENGLISH

There are 13 Modals including the Semi Modals. Out of them shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must, ought to and used to are always anomalous. Dare and need are anomalous when used as auxiliaries and not anomalous when they are used as principal verbs.

Auxiliary, or helping verbs, are used before infinitives to add a different meaning. The following auxiliaries are called Modal Auxiliaries or Modals.

Modal AuxiliariesMeanings / Functions
canability, permission, request, possibility
couldability, formal request, possibility
shallfuturity, willingness, intention, suggestion, insistence
shouldobligation, necessity, expectation, advisability
willwillingness, intention, prediction, insistence
wouldwillingness, habitual action in the past, probability, wish, desire
maypermission, possibility, wish, purpose, concession
mightpermission, possibility, concession, reproach
mustnecessity, prohibition, compulsion, obligation, deduction, certainty, probability
Quasis / Semi ModalsMeanings / Functions
ought tomoral obligation, probability, certainty, advice, necessity, duty, fitness
use todiscontinued habit
neednecessity, obligation (used in negative and questions)
daredefiance, challenge, boldness (used in negatives and interrogatives)


Can and Could :

Use can and could to say that someone is able to do something or Can and could are also used for asking for information or help for offering something, and for suggesting something.

  • He can play the piano.
    can + infinitive (can do / can play / can come) etc.
Positive and Negative
I / we / you / they / he / she / it can
can not
do
play
come
see
Question
can I / we / you / they / he / she / it do?
play?
come?
see?
  • I can play the piano. My brother can play the piano too.
  • Nancy can speak English but she can not speak Latin
  • Can you change your dress?
  • Johncy and Nancy can not come to the party next week
  • You can borrow my pen, if you like
  • Can you ride a bike?
  • I ran as fast as I could
  • Nancy could not come to the party because she was ill
  • Mom said I could have ice cream after my dinner
  • I could lend you my cricket ball

May and Might :

Use may to ask if you are allowed to do something, or to give someone permission to do something.

  • Modals May and Might
  • It may rain (Perhaps it will rain) - It might rain (Perhaps it is raining or it will rain)
may or might + infinitive (may go/ might go / may play / might play etc.)
I / we / you / they / he / she / it may (not)
might (not)
be
go
play
come
You can use may or might:
may/might = it is possible that something will happen.
  • I may go to the cinema this evening.
  • I might go to the cinema this evening. (= perhaps I will go)
  • Please may I see your ticket?
may/might = ask if you are allowed to do something and to tell someone that they are allowed to do something.
  • May I borrow your pen?
  • Please may I see your ticket?
  • May I sit here?
  • Put your purse away or it might get stolen
The negative is may not or might not:
  • I might not go to work tomorrow. (= perhaps I will not go)
  • She may not come to the party. (= perhaps she will not come)

Must :

Use must when you think it is necessary or very important to do something :

  • Modals Must Meaning
  • The windows are very dirty. I must clean them.
  • It is a fantastic film. You must see it.
  • We must go to the bank today. We haven’t got any money.
  • You must mail this letter today.
must + infinitive (must do/ must see etc.)
I / we / you / they / he / she / it must do
go
stop
write
must is present of future :

  • We must go to the bank now.
  • We must go to the bank tomorrow.

For the past (yesterday / last week etc.), we use had to + infinitive (had to go / had to do / had to write etc.) :
I had to go to the bank yesterday. [= It was necessary for me to go the bank].
We had to walk home last night. There was no bus.

must not
I mustn’t do it = it is important not do it. it is a bad thing to do:

  • I must hurry. I must not be late.
  • You must not walk on the grass.

Need not
I need not do it = it is not necessary to do it. I do not need to do it :

  • I need not clean the windows. They are not dirty.
  • You need not go to the bank. I can give you some money.

We can also say do not need to ... => need not.

  • I don’t need to clean the windows.
  • You don’t need to go to the bank.

Should :

(Someone) should do something = it is a good thing to do or the right thing to do :

  • Modals Should Meaning
  • Akbar should go to bed earlier. He usually goes to bed very late and he’s always tired.
  • It is good film. You should go and see it.
  • When you play tennis, you should always watch the ball.
should + infinitive (should do / should write etc.)
I / we / you / they / he / she / it should
shouldn’t
do
go
stop
write
Shoult not = It’s not a good thing to do or it’s not the right thing to do:
  • Lenin should not go to bed so late.
  • You work all the time. You should not work so hard.

Will / Would

Use will when you are order or asking someone to do something.

  • Will you please shutup.
  • Will I carry the bag for you.
Use would when you are asking or requesting someone to do something.
  • Would you pass me that pen, please?.
  • Would you like onemore drink?.
  • Which pen would you like?
 

 

Complete the sentences using Modals :

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