Modal verbs, sometimes called modals, are auxiliary verbs (helping verbs). They express such things as possibility, probability, permission and obligation.
- Can, could, might, may, must, should, will, would and shall are modal verbs.
- We use a modal verb before a second verb.
- Modal verbs are not followed by to.
It’s important for learners to remember that modal verbs can have more than one meaning and function.
Modal verbs to express ability
Modal verbs to express permission
Modal verbs to express probability and certainty (modal verbs of deduction)
- Present tense modal verbs of deduction: must, can’t, may, might, could
- Past tense modal verbs of deduction: must have, can’t have, couldn’t have
Modal verbs to express obligation
- Should – to express weak obligation, advice
- Should have – to express unfulfilled obligation in the past