Modal Verb: a Type of Auxiliary Verb

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Part of a series on English Grammar

Modal Verb

Modal verb refers to a type of ‘auxiliary verb’ that helps the main verb to express a range of meanings such as possibility, probability, wants, wishes, necessity, permission, suggestion, advice, etc.

The main modal verbs are:

  • Can, could
  • May, might
  • Will, would
  • Shall, should
  • Must


Modal verbs have only one form. They have no –s form in the third person singular, no infinitive and no participles.

Examples of modal verbs include:

  • He cannot read and write. (Expressing ability)
  • You may answer the question. (Expressing permission)
  • We might get their by nightfall. (Expressing possibility)
  • Will you have tea? (Expressing an offer or invitation)
  • We should arrive by dawn. (Expressing probability)
  • You may prefer to wait. (Expressing suggestion)
  • Could you give him this message? (Expressing request)
  • Can you find time to call me back? (Expressing instruction)
  • They must leave at once. (Expressing necessity)




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