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English Grammar and Exercises for ESL learners.

ENGLISH MODAL VERBS

Modal verbs are a type of auxiliary verb which express the mood of another verb.
They are used to express ideas such as:
possibility, prediction, speculation, deduction and necessity.

Modal verbs have the following characteristics:

1) They do not have participle or infinitive forms
2) They do not take the ending -(e)s in the third-person singular.
3) They do not have a past form: He can/he canted. She must/she musted.
4) The negative is formed by the addition of not/n’t: He cannot/ He can’t. NOT He don’t can.
5) Questions are formed by inversion with the subject:  Can you? NOT Do you can?

Modal   Concept Example

Can

Ability:

Permission:

Offers :
Julie can swim.

Can I come with you? ('May' is also used.)

Can I help you?

Could

Possibility:

Past ability :

Permission :

Requests :
That story could be true - who knows!

Charlie could swim when he was four years old.

Could I use your phone please?

Could you tell me the way to the station please?

May

Possibility :

Permission :
The President may come to our offices if the
meeting finishes before 5 pm.

May I borrow your dictionary?
Might Slight possibility :

Past form of 'may'
in reported speech.
We might win a prize but I doubt it.

The President said he might come.
Must



Mustn't
Obligation :

Logical deduction :

Prohibition:
Dogs must be kept on a lead.

You must be tired after your long journey.

You mustn't tell Alex. It's a surprise!
Should Advice :

Logical deduction :
You should take an umbrella in case it rains.

I've revised so I should be ready for the test.
Ought to*
Advice :

Logical deduction :
You ought to write to your grandmother.

30 € ought to be enough for the taxi.
Shall Future tense auxiliary :

Offers/suggestions
with ''I' and 'we'
I shall be in London on Monday (or I'll be ...).

Shall I order a taxi?
Shall we begin the meeting now?
Will Future tense auxiliary:

Invitations/offers :
The ticket will cost about 50€.

Will you join us for coffee? Won't you come in?
*semi-modal
Semi-modal verbs are composed of two or more separate words ending with ‘to’.
Have to/have got to - be able to - ought to are examples of semi-modal verbs.

Try an exercise

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