Verbs: modals overview

Overview

Use:

The main modal verbs include: can, may, might, must, should, will and would

Modal verbs can be used to express a variety meanings including: ability, permission, probability, obligation, advice, requests and future

Examples:

Modal verb Meaning Example
can ability I can speak three different languages.
may request May I ask you another question?
might probability It might rain tomorrow
must obligation You must see a doctor at once!
must logical certainty He must be over eighty, he was born in 1930.
should advice You should stop smoking.
will future I will let you know tomorrow.
would conditional If I had known, I would have told you.

Construction

Modal verbs behave differently from other verbs. Differences include the conjugation, question structure and the way they combine with other verbs:

Difference Example
Conjugation - modal verbs don’t change their form or spelling He cans can speak French.
Question structure - questions with modals do not require the 'do' auxiliary. The same applies to negative statements. Do you can speak French? Can you speak French?
Combining with other verbs - most verbs combine with a second verb by using ‘to’ or ‘-’, e.g. I want to speak French. Modals require just the bare infinitive. I can to speak French.

Sources

This grammar section includes materials sourced from the following: Linguapress,