Modal Auxiliary Verbs: Definition, Examples, Formulas, & Problems

When studying English, the term modal verb is certainly familiar. Modal verbs, or what is
sometimes called modals, are auxiliary verbs in English.

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Modal verbs or Modal Verb is a type of verb that is used to show a modality.

These modalities are possibility, capability, request, capacity, suggestion, command, and obligation.

This modal verb is of course always used in everyday conversation. Consider the following
description of modal verbs along with practice questions.

Definition of modal verbs

Modal verbs or modal verbs are an auxiliary verb, or auxiliary verb.

This auxiliary verb must be used with the main verb. These modal verbs are used to express
needs, possibilities, abilities, requests, as well as commands.
Auxiliary verbs (auxiliary
verbs) function to help other verbs to show the tenses and also the mood of the speaker.
The
forms of Auxiliary verbs are, do, be and have.

Examples of modal verbs are:

  1. must,
  2. shall,
  3. should,
  4. would,
  5. can,
  6. could,
  7. may,
  8. might,
  9. will.

This modal verb is different from other verbs. When using modal verbs, the third person does
not need to add the final -s in the present tense.
For example, ‘She cans’ or ‘He cans’, that
is the wrong form.

In addition, in the use of modal verbs must be followed by basic verbs such as,

  1. read (read),
  2. write (write),
  3. sing (sing),
  4. walk (walk),
  5. run (running) and others.

Modal verbs do not have infinitive forms such as I would-ing, I can-ning, that is the wrong form.

This modal verb gives information about the base or main verb it regulates. Modal verbs have a
variety of communicative functions, but these functions can generally be associated with a scale from
possibility to necessity.

In learning this modal verb to use in writing, Sinaumed’s can learn it through the book 30 Minute Essay Writing,
Writing Is Easy which explains various important things to write a good essay.

Types of Modalities

The following are the types of these modalities:

  • Epistemic modality, this modality is related to the possibility of a proposition being true or not true,
    including the possibility and certainty.
  • Deontic modality, this modality is related to the possibility and necessity in terms of freedom to act,
    including permission and obligation.
  • Dynamic modality, this dynamic modality is somewhat similar to deontic modality, however, dynamic modality
    is internal, such as the ability or willingness of the subject to act.

An example of a distinction between epistemic and deontic modalities,

  1. You must be tired ‘ (you must be tired), in other words the speaker thinks that
    ‘you’ must be tired.
  2. You must leave, now ‘ (You must leave now), in other words the speaker requires or
    orders ‘you’ to leave immediately.

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Verb

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Generic Structure Modal Verb

Modal verb formula:

Positive Sentences

They, we, I you, he, she, it + modal verbs + verb 1

1. She can attend the party

(He can attend the party)

2. He will propose his girlfriend this Saturday

(He is going to propose to his girlfriend this saturday)

Negative sentences

They, we, I you, he, she, it + modal verbs + not + verb 1

example:

1. They must not walk on the grass

(They shouldn’t walk on the grass)

2. You shall not pass

(You can’t pass)

Interrogative sentences

Modal verbs + They, we, I you, he, she, it + verb 1

example:

1. Can you speak Japanese?

(can you speak Japanese)

2. May I ask a question?

(May I ask?)

In order for the modal verbs you use to match the message you are trying to convey, you must first know good
English grammar and you can learn this in the book The 1st Student’s Choice : Complete English Grammar.

Functions of modal verbs:

1. Will: the modal verb ‘will’ means ‘will’.

A. Will to express will

I will join the party if my father allows me

(I will come to the party if my father allows me)

I will come to your house tonight

(I will come to your house tonight)

Will to make predictions

The president will join the meeting in Singapore next week

(The President will attend the meeting in Singapore next week)

The CEO will sign an agreement with that company

(CEO will sign an agreement with that company)

C. Will to ask a request

Will you have dinner with me?

(Would you like to have dinner with me?)

Will you marry me?

(Will you marry me?)

2. Would: the modal verb
would, has the same meaning as will.

The difference between the modal would and will is that the modal would is a past modal. In
addition, the modal would can also be used for more formal sentences.

A. Would to express willingness

We would come last night, if you had invited us.

(We will come last night, if only you invite us)

He was a kind person, he would always help anyone.

(He is a good person, he will help anyone)

B. Would to make predictions

I believe that my team will become a winner

(I believe that my team will be the champion)

He would be sitting here if he had not missed his bus

(He would have sat here if only he hadn’t missed the bus)

C. Would to ask a request

Would you help me to take care of my sister?

(Will you help me to look after my little sister?)

Would you like something to drink?

(Would you like something to drink?)

D. Can: the modal verb can, means ‘can’.

Similar to the modal verb will, the modal verb can is the present modal.

1. Can to express ability

I can show you my project

(I can show my project)

My mom can make strawberry cake.

(My mom can make strawberry shortcake)

2. Can to ask permission

Can we go home right now?

(Can we go home now?)

Can you take me to the mall?

(Can you take me to the mall?)

3. Can to express a possibility

We can go to Paris in February, because we have a week off.

(We can go to Paris in February, because we have an empty week)

How can you be on a diet if you eat so much chocolate?

(How can you diet if you eat so much chocolate?)

E. Could: the modal verb
could, has the same meaning as can.

The difference between the modal could and can is that the modal could is a past modal. In
addition, the modal could also be used for more formal sentences.

1. Could to express ability

We could have lunch early today.

(We can have an early lunch today)

We could drive to Bandung this Saturday.

(We can drive to Bandung this Saturday)

2. Could to ask permission

Could I pay by cash?

(Can I pay by cash)

Could I sit here? another bench is full.

(Can I sit here? the other benches are full)

3. Could to express a possibility

The snowstorm could get worse tonight.

(blizzard could be worse tonight)

It could be blue, or black.

(It could be blue, or black)

F. May: the modal verb may, means ‘maybe’.

The modal may can also express possibility, request permission and give advice.

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1. May to state the possibility

She may come to my house after lunch.

(He will probably come to my house after lunch)

I think I may go to the hospital today.

(I think I might go to the hospital today)

2. May to ask permission

May I visit grandfather this Sunday?

(Can I visit Grandpa this Sunday?)

May I drop you at the hotel?

(Can I take you to the hotel?)

3. May to express a suggestion

You may not eat this cake if you have an allergy to peanuts

(You may not eat this cake if you are allergic to peanuts)

You may not go to the party if it’s snowing today.

(You might not go to the party if it snows today)

G. Might: the modal verb
might, has the same meaning as may.

The difference between the modal might and may is that the modal might is a past modal. In
addition, the modal might can also be used in more formal sentences.

1. Might to state a possibility

Justin Bieber might go to Indonesia this year.

(Justin Bieber might be going to Indonesia this year)

Her father might sell their house.

(Her father might just sell their house)

H. Might to express a suggestion or
criticism

You might have told me you weren’t coming to my wedding.

(You probably told me that you won’t come to my wedding)

1. Might to give you an offer

Might I offer you to try our delicious desserts?

(May I offer you to try our delicious dessert?)

2. Might to ask permission

If Blackpink comes to Indonesia, might I go to their concert?

(If Blackpink comes to Indonesia, can I go to their concert?)

Might I ask for your phone number?

(May I ask your phone number?)

I. Must: the modal verb must, means ‘must’.

The modal verb must, is the present modal form. The modal must, can also be replaced with the
word have to or has to.

1. Must to express necessity

You must tell your parents now.

(You should tell your parents now)

I must talk to her about my new project.

(I have to tell him about my new project)

2. Must to declare prohibition

You must not come home after 9 o’clock pm

(you are not allowed to go home after 9 pm)

You must not leave anything here

(you can’t leave anything here)

3. Must to state a certainty

This exam must be easy for her.

(This exam must be easy for him)

That must be wonderful.

(That must be awesome)

J. Ought to: the
modal verb ought to, has the meaning ‘whichever is more appropriate’.

The modal verb ought to is a form of present capital. The modal word ought to is a semi-modal
because the modal verb is followed by ‘to’, unlike modal verbs in general.

1. Ought to to express a necessity.

You should do more exercise and drink more water.

(You should exercise more and drink more water)

You should eat your breakfast now before the school bus comes.

(You should have breakfast now before the school bus comes)

2. Oought to to state a possibility

The concert ought to only take about three hours so we’ll be home by 1 am

(The concert should only take about three hours, so we’ll be home by 1 p.m.)

There ought to be some good concerts this year.

(Should be some good concerts this year)

3. Oought to to express suggestions

You oughtn’t to have said that about her father.

(You shouldn’t say that about his father)

You should use a moisturizer to moisten your skin.

(You should use a moisturizer to moisturize your skin)

K. Shall: the modal verb shall, means
‘must’.

The modal verb shall, is the present modal form. The modal shall comes first after the subject
and before the other verbs.
The modal shall is usually used with subjects I and We.

1. Shall to submit an offer

Shall I carry your luggage?

(Should I carry your luggage?)

Shall I come round to your house tonight?

(should I come to your house tonight?)

1. Shall to express suggestions

Shall we meet again on Sunday?

(Should we meet again on Sunday?)

Shall i tell my mom about this?

(Should I tell my mom about this?)

2. Shall to express predictions and wishes

We shall remember this moment forever

(We must remember this moment forever)

3. Shall to declare an order

This window shall be kept closed.

(This window must be closed)

L. Should: the modal verb should, means
‘should’.

The modal verb should can be used to give advice.

1. Should to state about
what is best to do

There should be more public transportations.

(There should be more public transportation)

There should be more strawberries on the cake.

(There should be more strawberries in the cake)

2. Should to express suggestions

You should tell your boyfriend about last night.

(You should have told your boyfriend about last night)

You should change your e-mail password.

(You should change your email password)

Modal Auxiliary Verb practice

1. There are plenty of potatoes. You __ buy any.

(There are lots of potatoes, you don’t have to buy them)

2. __ you please call my mom for me?

(Can you call my mom for me?)

3. __ you teach me how to make brownies? You’re so good at it.

(Can you teach me to make brownies? you are very good at it)

4. You __ walk on grass.

(You shouldn’t walk on the grass)

5. __ I ask you a question?

(May I ask you a question?)

6. Don’t forget to take an umbrella today. It __ rain.

(don’t forget to bring an umbrella today. It might rain)

You can find various other English questions in the Top Module TOEFL Test book Indonesian Edition by the Smart
Genesis Team which can help you hone your English skills.

Answers to the Modal Auxiliary Verb exercise

(There are lots of potatoes, you don’t have to buy them)

2. (Could) you please call my mom for me?

(Can you call my mom for me?)

3. (Can) you teach me how to make brownies? You’re so good at it.

(Can you teach me to make brownies? you are very good at it)

4. You (must not) walk on grass.

(You shouldn’t walk on the grass)

5. (May) I ask you a question?

(May I ask you a question?)

6. Don’t forget to take an umbrella today. It (might) rain.

(don’t forget to bring an umbrella today. It might rain)

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