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Modal Verbs



Modal verbs are a category of auxiliary verbs used to express modality, which is the speaker's attitude or the likelihood of the action described by the main verb. Modal verbs do not have a specific tense and are used with the base form of the main verb. Here are the primary modal verbs and their types:


When are modal verbs used?



Likelihood

Some things seem likely to be true but can’t be stated as definite facts. In these cases, you can use the modal verbs should and must to show probability without certainty.

  1. Her parents must be overjoyed with her academic achievements.

  • Example: After receiving the scholarship, her parents must be overjoyed with her academic achievements.

  1. My younger sister should be finished with her homework by now.

  • Example: Considering her usual study time, my younger sister should be finished with her homework by now.

Possibility

In a situation when something is possible but not certain, use the modal verb could, may, or might.

  1. Judging by the traffic, we might be late to the movie.

  • Example: Looking at the heavy traffic, we might be late to the movie.

  1. She may discover a new species during her expedition.

  • Example: Given the unexplored region, she may discover a new species during her expedition.

Ability

The modal verb can expresses whether the subject of a sentence is able to do something. Likewise, the negative form, cannot or can’t, shows that the subject is unable to do something.

  1. He can solve complex mathematical problems effortlessly.

  • Example: With his mathematical skills, he can solve complex problems effortlessly.

  1. I can't believe you finished the entire pizza by yourself.

  • Example: Expressing surprise, I can't believe you finished the entire pizza by yourself.

Permission

If you want to ask permission to do something, start your question with can, may, or could. Traditionally, may is considered more formal and polite usage for permission.

  1. May I use your laptop for a moment?

  • Example: Seeking permission, you ask, "May I use your laptop for a moment?"

  1. Students, you can start the experiment now.

  • Example: Giving permission, the teacher says, "Students, you can start the experiment now."

Request

Similarly, if you want to ask someone else to do something, start your question with will, would, can, or could.

  1. Would you kindly proofread my essay?

  • Example: Requesting assistance, you ask, "Would you kindly proofread my essay?"

  1. Will you pass me the salt, please?

  • Example: Requesting a small favor, you say, "Will you pass me the salt, please?"

Suggestion/Advice

If you want to recommend a course of action but not command it, you can use the modal verb should.

  1. You should explore the historic district when you visit.

  • Example: Offering travel advice, you suggest, "You should explore the historic district when you visit."

  1. Students should review the material before the exam.

  • Example: Advising students, the teacher says, "Students should review the material before the exam."

Command

On the other hand, if you want to command someone, use the modal verbs must, have, or need.

  1. You must complete the safety training before operating the machinery.

  • Example: Giving a safety command, the supervisor says, "You must complete the safety training before operating the machinery."

  1. Employees need to submit their reports by Friday.

  • Example: Issuing a deadline, the manager says, "Employees need to submit their reports by Friday."

Obligation or Necessity

Modal verbs can express a necessary action, such as an obligation, duty, or requirement.

  1. Everyone has to attend the orientation session.

  • Example: Stating a requirement, the coordinator says, "Everyone has to attend the orientation session."

  1. You don’t need to bring your own materials; we provide them.

  • Example: Clarifying a lack of necessity, the organizer says, "You don’t need to bring your own materials; we provide them."

Habit

To show an ongoing or habitual action—something the subject does regularly—you can use the modal verb would for the past tense and will for the present and future.

  1. When I was in college, I would study late into the night.

  • Example: Reflecting on the past, you say, "When I was in college, I would study late into the night."

  1. I will practice the piano every day to improve my skills.

  • Example: Expressing a commitment for the future, you say, "I will practice the piano every day to improve my skills."






List of Modal Verbs


  1. Can:

  • Description: Indicates ability, possibility, or permission.

  • Examples:

  • She can play the piano.

  • Can I use your computer?

  1. Could:

  • Description: Past tense of "can," used for past ability, polite requests, or possibilities.

  • Examples:

  • He could swim when he was five.

  • Could you pass me the salt?

  1. May:

  • Description: Expresses permission, possibility, or uncertainty.

  • Examples:

  • You may leave the room.

  • It may rain later.

  1. Might:

  • Description: Similar to "may," indicating a lesser degree of certainty or a more tentative possibility.

  • Examples:

  • It might snow tomorrow.

  • You might want to consider that option.

  1. Shall:

  • Description: Used for offers, suggestions, or in questions with "I" or "we" for the future.

  • Examples:

  • Shall we go for a walk?

  • Shall I help you?

  1. Should:

  • Description: Indicates advice, obligation, or expectation.

  • Examples:

  • You should eat more vegetables.

  • You should submit the report by Friday.

  1. Will:

  • Description: Expresses future tense, predictions, or willingness.

  • Examples:

  • She will arrive at 3 o'clock.

  • It will rain tomorrow.

  1. Would:

  • Description: Used for polite requests, hypothetical situations, or expressing preferences.

  • Examples:

  • Would you please pass the bread?

  • If I had the time, I would travel more.

  1. Must:

  • Description: Signifies necessity, obligation, or strong recommendation.

  • Examples:

  • You must complete the assignment.

  • You must read this book; it's excellent.


Semi-Modal Verbs:

  1. Dare:

  • Description: Can function as a main verb or modal, indicating challenge or a polite inquiry.

  • Examples:

  • She dared him to jump off the cliff.

  • Dare I ask a personal question?

  1. Need:

  • Description: Expresses necessity or lack of necessity.

  • Examples:

  • You need not worry; everything will be fine.

  • She has got to leave early.

  1. Used to:

  • Description: Describes past habits or states.

  • Examples:

  • We used to go camping every summer.

  • Used he to smoke?

  1. Ought to:

  • Description: Similar to "should," indicating moral obligation or desirability.

  • Examples:

  • You ought to be more considerate.

  • Ought we to finish this today?

  1. Have (got) to:

  • Description: Similar to "have to," implying obligation or necessity.

  • Examples:

  • I have to finish this task today.

  • She has got to visit the doctor.

  1. Supposed to:

  • Description: Implies expectation or requirement.

  • Examples:

  • You are supposed to arrive on time.

  • Are we supposed to bring anything?



Exercise:


Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the following modals: can, could, be able to, may, might, shall, should, must, have to, don't have to, need to



  1. He has to take his car to be serviced. The brakes are squeaking.

  2. Would you please save me a seat at the dinner event.

  1. If you are sick, you ________ go to work. You'll infect everyone there.

  2. Drivers _______ stop at red lights.

  3. You _______ finish the proposal today. You can finish it tomorrow.

  4. She ______ hear much better with her new hearing aids.

  5. ______ I order us a bottle of wine?

  6. Sam ______ pick his daughter up from school. She's taking the bus home.

  7. You _____________ smoke here. It's a smoke-free building.

  8. You ________ eat so many sweets. They are bad for you.

  9. _________ you mind walking a little faster? We're going to be late.

  10. I'm sorry. I _______ help you. I don't know how to do it.


Answers:

  1. shouldn't

  2. must

  3. don't have to

  4. can

  5. shall

  6. needn't

  7. mustn't

  8. shouldn't

  9. would

  10. can't




Fill in the blanks with the appropriate modal or semi-modal verb from the list provided. Remember to choose the most suitable one based on the context.

Modal and Semi-Modal Verbs List:

Can, Could, May, Might, Shall, Should, Will, Would, Must, Ought to, Have to, Need to, Dare, Used to, Need, Ought to, Have (got) to, Supposed to



  1. She ________ speak Spanish fluently.

  2. ______ I borrow your pen, please?

  3. They ___________ arrive at the airport by 6 PM.

  4. You ___________ complete your homework before going out.

  5. ______ we go for a picnic this weekend?

  6. He ___________ be at the meeting right now.

  7. We ___________ bring gifts to the party.

  8. Students ___________ wear a uniform to school.

  9. ______ I open the window? It's hot in here.

  10. I ___________ finish this report by tomorrow.

  11. She ___________ swim when she was a child.

  12. ______ you pass me the salt, please?

  13. It ___________ rain later, so bring an umbrella.

  14. He ___________ read that book; it's a classic.

  15. You ___________ apologize for your mistake.

  16. You ___________ smoke in this area.

  17. They ___________ go to the concert last night.

  18. We ___________ consider all options before deciding.

  19. She ___________ leave early for her appointment.

  20. ______ I ask a personal question?


Answers:

  1. Can

  2. May

  3. Will

  4. Must

  5. Shall

  6. Should

  7. Ought to

  8. Have to

  9. Can

  10. Need to

  11. Could

  12. Could

  13. Might

  14. Should

  15. Ought to

  16. Must not

  17. Used to

  18. Should

  19. Has got to

  20. Dare


Fill in the blanks with the appropriate modal or semi-modal verb from the list provided.


Modal and Semi-Modal Verbs List:

Can, Could, May, Might, Shall, Should, Will, Would, Must, Ought to, Have to, Need to, Dare, Used to, Need, Ought to, Have (got) to, Supposed to

  1. After years of practice, he ___________ speak several languages fluently.

  2. ______ you please lend me a hand with this complex problem?

  3. By this time next year, they ___________ complete their research project.

  4. Engineers ___________ consider the environmental impact of their designs.

  5. ______ we arrange a meeting to discuss the new proposal?

  6. The weather forecast suggests it ___________ rain tomorrow.

  7. The doctor said I ___________ take the medication regularly.

  8. We ___________ wear formal attire to the gala event.

  9. ______ I suggest an alternative solution to the problem?

  10. In emergencies, you ___________ use the emergency exit.

  11. During his prime, he ___________ run a mile in under four minutes.

  12. ______ I use your laptop if mine is not working?

  13. The political situation ___________ change in the coming months.

  14. She ___________ finish her assignment before the deadline.

  15. Everyone ___________ evacuate the building immediately.

  16. The film director said we ___________ start shooting next week.

  17. The old bridge ___________ be unsafe for heavy vehicles.

  18. Before making a decision, you ___________ consider all the consequences.

  19. He ___________ be at the airport by now; his flight was scheduled to land an hour ago.

  20. ______ I ask where you obtained this valuable information?


Answers:

  1. Can

  2. Could

  3. Will

  4. Should

  5. Shall

  6. Might

  7. Must

  8. Have to

  9. May

  10. Must

  11. Could

  12. Can

  13. Might

  14. Must

  15. Must

  16. Will

  17. May

  18. Should

  19. Should

  20. May



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