Modals are special verbs that are used with the main verb to make the sentence more meaningful.

Modals are used to:

  • indicate the possibility or necessity of an event
  • make requests, offers or suggestions
  • to make what you are saying more polite, to seek permission
  • express ability or certainty
  • express moral obligation or duty
  • express willingness, promise or intention

Common Modal Verbs

Can, Could, Shall, Should, May, Might, Will, Would, Must, Ought to

Need and dare can sometimes be used as modal verbs.


  • May I borrow your notebook? (seeking permission)
  • I could ride a horse when I was five years old. (express ability)
  • Could you hold this for a while? (polite request)
  • It may rain today. (express possibility)
  • You must take better care of your health. (express necessity)
  • We ought to respect our parents. (moral obligation)
  • Shall I bring a glass of water for you? (request)
  • I will write to you as soon as I reach Ambala. (promise)
  • How dare you slap me? (negative, interrogative sense)
  • We should take care of our pets. (duty)
  • I can speak German. (express ability)


  1. Modal verbs do not take ‘-s’ in the third person singular.
  2. They have no –ing and –ed form.
  3. Many modal verbs cannot be used in the past tense or the future tense.
  4. Modals are not used alone. They are always used with the main verb that follows them.
  5. Use ‘not’ after modals to make them negative.