Below we take you through some important rules for Modal Verbs as well as examples and situations where they are used. (For a more detailed explanation of Modal Verbs please click on the link in previous sentence.)
10 Examples of English Modal Verbs
These are the English modal verbs:
- Ought to
3 Rules when using Modal Verbs
Their rules differ from other verbs in a few key ways:
- Never add an “s” when converting them to third person singular.
- Always follow them with an infinitive verb without the “to.”
- Always reverse the order when asking a question – for example, instead of saying, “You can swim,” you would ask “Can you swim?”
5 situations when you can use Modal Verbs
Below are some of the situations in which you would use modal verbs.
We can use modals when we want to express the likelihood of something happening in the past, present, or future. We might use modals to express probably, possibility, or certainty.
- I didn’t study for the test, so I might fail.
- She gets good grades, so she must study.
- If I study next time, I should do
We use modals “can” and “could” to express a person’s ability to do something.
- I can read at an advanced level.
- After the accident, he couldn’t walk for six months.
- She can be very patient.
Obligation and Advice
We use modals such as “can” or “should” when we want to express something a person is or is not obligated or advised to do.
- You shouldn’t pet that dog when he growls.
- Parents should raise their children to be polite.
- You can skip the meeting if you like.
We use modals such as “may,” “can,” or “could” when asking for, giving, or denying permission to do something.
- You can’t say that in public!
- I can stay out late.
- May I taste your sandwich?
We use “will” and “would” when describing something that is or was a habit or routine.
- Every day after work, I would go to the store.
- I can’t stop listening to that song.
Special Cases (past tense modals)
Some modal verbs can be tricky, and warrant special consideration in the sections that follow. These include “could have,” “would have,” “should have,” and “would.”