List of Modals with Examples


English could be a very tricky language because of the complexities of the structures involved. But once you get hold of the basics, you can actually become a pro in it. It’s these basics which will help you in forming a strong foundation. And we all know what these basics are and what is the foundation of any language. Yes, it’s grammar. Once you get a good hold over the grammar, the rest of the journey becomes a lot easier. So, today, we are going to discuss one such basic which form an important part of English grammar i.e., Modals. 

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What Are Modals and What are its Functions?

Modals are auxiliary verbs i.e., helping verbs which express the modality of a statement or a main verb. Modality could be anything starting from the request, likelihood, permission, ability, capacity, suggestions, orders, obligations to advice. So, basically, the Modal verbs are used along with the main verb in order to give additional information regarding its nature. For instance, consider the statement given below. 

  1. Don’t you dare to challenge my authority!
  2. I can do it. 
  3. It may rain today. 

In these three statements, “dare”, “can” and “may” are the modals. If you look closer at them you will understand what we mean by the statement that modals express modality. In the first statement, the Modal “dare” shows that it’s an order. In the second statement, “can” signifies the ability of the subject “I” and in the third one, the word “may” highlights some possibility. So, the Modals used in these sentences give us some additional information about the main verb, noun or subject of the statement. 

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List of Common Modals with Examples

In the English language, there are many modals but we will only talk about the ones which are used the most frequently. 


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The Modal “shall” is used to denote a suggestion or a promise. It can also be used to give an order. So, this particular modal can be used in many senses but what we need to remember is that it’s always used in the present or future sense. 

Suggestion Shall I do it for you?
Order  You shall not enter the library. 
Promise You shall get your books back by tomorrow. 


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The modal “should” can be used to express a suggestion or advice and duty or moral obligation.

Advice or suggestion You should do your homework on time. 
Duty or Moral obligation We should respect our teachers, elders and parents. 


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The modal “will” expresses potential. It can be used to denote determination, intention, willingness, to make a demand or even a promise. 

Determination I will win this match.
Intention, Willingness We will go to Ladakh next summer.I will donate as much as I can. 
Prediction/assumption I think he will come tomorrow.
Promise I will buy you a watch for your birthday
Demand Will you turn off the light?

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The modal “would” is used to make a polite request in the present moment and can be used to talk about a habit or happening of the past. 

Polite Request Would you hold this for me?
Habit Earlier, I would go to movies on weekends. 


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The modal “can” is used to take permission, make an offer, request or a suggestion, express a possibility, reflect on your ability and also can be used to reflect on one’s capacity or potential. 

Permission/request Can I come with you?
Ability/capacity I can paint without using a paintbrush. 
Offer I can lend you my car if it’s urgent.  
Possibility He can be very rude at times. 


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Could is usually used in the past tense to express ability. Also, it’s a politer version of the modal “can” and therefore can be used to make polite requests, offers or suggestions. 

Ability  I could have done better.
Request Could I come with you?
Suggestion You could have bought a black dress. 
Probability (Regarding a past event) You could have gotten lost in the market. 


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The modal “may” can be used to take permission, express some possibility and can also be used to make a wish. 

Permission May I come in?
Possibility His employer may not grant him a leave. 
Wish May she get better soon. 


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Like the modal “may”, “might” can also be used to express possibility but only when the possibility is even lesser. It can also be used to denote a permission which was given in the past or express possibility in the past tense. 

Possibility He might be ill.
Permission The teacher said that we might go home if we want. 
Possibility I thought that he might back out from the match. 


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The modal “must” is used to express necessity or obligation, an assumption or conclusion. It can also be used to express prohibition. 

Necessity/obligation I must be home by 8. 
Assumption/conclusion He must be in some grave danger. 
Prohibition You must not tell lies. 

Ought to

Ought to
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The modal “ought to” is used to denote a moral obligation which is objective in nature or express an objective belief. 

Moral Obligation You ought to have completed the work honestly.
Belief By the looks of it, he ought to be an amazing teacher. 

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So, these are the 10 Modals which are frequently used by everyone. We hope that this blog helped you learn about these special verbs and their meanings. Planning for English proficiency exams like IELTS or TOEFL? Our Leverage Edu experts are here to guide you through your exam preparation with the best guidance, study materials and online classes! Sign up for a free demo with us now!

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