The modals are used to indicate a certain possibility, abilities, doubts, suggestions, requests, and more. The examples of modal verbs are can, could, would, may, might, must, etc.

The modals are a type of verb that basically portray or show the tense and the mood. It helps us to know the function and the purpose of the main verb. Modal verbs indicate a probability, an ability, permission, any advice, a request, an obligation, a prediction, or certainty or likelihood of an incident to occur. The different modal verbs examples are can, could, must, may, might, should, ought to, would, will, shall, have to, used to, need, and more. The modals are also known as modal auxiliary verbs. They help in delivering any extra information about the main verb’s function. They are different from the other verbs because they behave in an irregular way. 

Meaning of a Modal 

Modals are an essential part of English grammar. The main characteristic of a modal is to depict the function of the main verb or to deliver any additional information about it. Probability, certainty, predictability, advice, request, obligations, and other similar traits are indicated by modals. The most commonly used modal verbs are can, could, might, must, ought to, should, and more. These are always used with any other verb. Sometimes, it can be a bit tough to recognise the correct modal to be used. These verbs can not be used alone because they are auxiliary verbs that help the other verbs show their function. 

Consider the following examples – 

  • I ought to deliver this package to Mrs. Henry before tonight.
  • You should drive slowly and carefully. 
  • This work needs to be completed before the teacher comes. 

Modal Verbs: Characteristics

The modal verbs have several characteristics. They are- 

  • These verbs are auxiliary verbs
  • These are always used alongside another verb
  • These can never be used alone
  • In the third person singular form, ‘s’ is not used with these verbs
  • The questions formed with these verbs are based on inversions
  • They can be used to indicate probability, give advice, make requests, and more
  • The form of the modals never changes 
  • The Infinitive, past-participle, and present participle forms of these verbs are not present
  • They do have past forms 

The Functions of Modals 

  • CAN represents ability, suggestion, request
  • BE ABLE TO represents ability
  • CAN’T represent the certainty of something that is impossible to happen
  • COULD (past form of can) represents the ability, a suggestion, or a request
  • MAY represents the possibility of something that is supposed to happen or formal permission or request
  • MIGHT (past form of may) represents the possibility 
  • MUST represents the obligation or the certainty of something to be true
  • HAVE TO represent obligation
  • NEED TO represent obligation 
  • NEED NOT represents the lack of obligation 
  • MUST NOT represent the prohibition 
  • SHOULD (past form of shall)  and OUGHT TO represent an opinion or a piece of advice 
  • USED TO represents an action repeated in the past 
  • WILL is used as the future tense auxiliary and for invites
  • WOULD (past form of will) represents a wish, a request, or a past habit 

The Examples of Modals

  • The modals can be used in sentences in the following ways – 
  • Pemela can speak many different languages. 
  • He was able to open the drawer. 
  • When the traffic signals turn red, everyone must stop. 
  • Smoking can cause serious health issues. 
  • Could you please pass the salt?
  • Next week, I might take leave. 
  • You may get out of my class. 
  • Since plenty of fruits is kept in the fridge, I need not buy anymore. 
  • She should come and apologise to you for her mistakes. 
  • He has been working so hard. He ought to be really tired. 
  • We shall move out of this city very soon.
  • All the students have to memorise these tables by tomorrow. 


A modal is a type of verb that is used to indicate predictability, possibility, requests, advice suggestions, permissions, prohibition, doubt ability, certainty, and more. The modal auxiliary verbs are always accompanied by another main verb. Modals describe the function of the verb they are used with. Since these are auxiliary verbs, they cannot be used alone. ‘S’ is not used in the third person singular form of these verbs. The various modal examples are can, could, might, must should, will need, not, ought to, have to, and be able to more. The form of these types of verbs does not change ever.