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What is modals in english grammar with examples pdf

Models are used to express our moods, manners, and attitude. They help convey different meanings such as permission, possibility, ability, necessary, certainly, doubt, obligation, etc. Modals are never used along. A principle verb is either present or implied.

They do not change according to the number or person of the subject. They have no infinitive, present, past, or past participle forms.

Some important model verbs – Can / Could / Might / Must / Shall / Should / Ought to / Will / Would. ect.

When to use modals

  • Probability/Impossibility
  • Ability/Inability
  • Asking for Permission
  • Requests, offers and invitations
  • Suggestions and obligations

Modals of english grammar

Use of “Can”

Can used for following cases

1. Can used for showing that it is possible for somebody/something to do something.

2. somebody or something has the ability to do something.

3. Can also used to ask for or give permission.

4. Can express general and occasional possibility.

  • They can control their own budget’s (Ability / Possibility)
  • We can’t fix it. (Inability / Impossibility)
  • Can you help me (Asking for permission)
  • Can I sit here. (Request)
  • The strike can lead to further unrest.
  • She can play the flute, but she can’t sing.
  • I can’t drive a car.
  • Most birds can fly.
  • Aparna can speak English fluently.
  • Suddenly the light went off and we can’t see anything.

Use of “Could”

Could used fo following cases:

1. used for saying that somebody had the ability or was allowed to do something.

2. used for saying that something may be or may have been possible.

3. used for asking permission politely.

4. used for making a suggestion.

  • Could I borrow you pen? (Asking for permission)
  • We could try to solve it ourselves? (Suggestion)
  • He gave up his old job so he could work for us. (Ability in the past)

Use of “May”

May is used for following cases

1. used for saying that something is possible

2. used as a polite way of asking for and giving permission.

3. used for contrasting two facts.

4. used for expressing wishes and hopes.

  • May I have another cup of tea? (Asking for permission)
  • May you both be very happy
  • May I use your phone?
  • China may become a major economic power. (Future Possibility)

Use of “Might”

1. Might is used in the past tense, in present tense it implies something is possible.

2. Might is used in the past tense, in present tense it implies something with lesser possibility than suggested by may.

3. used to ask for something or suggest something very politely

  1. They might give us a 20% discount. (Future Possibility)
  2. He said he might come tomorrow.
  3. He might get there in time, but I’m not sure.

Use of “Must”

Must used for following cases

1. used for saying that it is necessary that something happens.

2. used for saying that you feel sure that something is true

3. used for giving somebody advice.

  • I must remember to go to the market today.
  • We must say good-bye now. (Necessity/Obligation)
  • They mustn’t disrupt the work more than necessary. (Prohibition)
  • You really must read that book. It’s wonderful.

Use of “Would”

It used for following cases:

1 used for asking somebody politely to do something.

2. used with ‘like’ or ‘love’ as a way of asking or saying what somebody wants.

3. to agree or be ready to do something.

4. used after ‘wish’

5. used as the past form of ‘will’ when you report what somebody says or thinks.

6. used for talking about things that often happened in the past.

7. used when you are giving your opinion but are not certain that you are right.

  • Would you mind if I brought a colleague with me? (Asking for permission)
  • Would you like to come with us?
  • I’d say he is about 50.
  • Would you pass the salt please? (Request)
  • Would three o’clock suit you? “That’d be fine” (Making arrangement)

Use of “Shall”

It used in following cases

1 used for asking for information or advice.

2. used for offering to do something.

3. used for suggesting that you do something with the person or people that you are talking to.

4. used with ‘I’ and ‘we’ in future tenses, instead of ‘will’

5. used for saying that something must happen or will definitely happen.

  1. He shall help your brother. (Certainly)
  2. They shall do it. (necessary)
  3. shall be very happy to see him again.
  4. You shall not enter my room again. (threat)
  5. Shall we drive you home?
  6. Shall we all go out together? (suggestion)

Use of “Will”

It used in following cases:

1. Used in forming the future tenses.

2. Used for asking somebody to do something

3. Used for saying that you think something is probably true

4. Used for talking about something annoying that somebody always or very often does.

  1. I will help you. (willingness)
  2. We will be rewarded. (determination)
  3. We will fight against injustice. (determination)
  4. I will vacate your house within a month. (promise)

Use of “Should”

It used in following cases

1. used for giving or for asking for advice.

2. used for saying that you expect something is true or will happen.

3. used with ‘I/we’ instead of ‘would’ in ‘if’ sentences, ‘if’

4. used after ‘if’ and ‘in case’ to refer to a possible event or situation.

  • You should walk daily. (advice)
  • He should obey his teaches. (education)
  • She should see the doctor immediately. (suggestion)
  • He should have his own way. (determination)
  • He said he would do his best for us. willingness)
  • Would you please do it? (polite request)
  • Would you permit me to enter the class? (permission)

Could and couldn’t

Could is used to express an ability or opportunity in the, that someone had an ability. The negative is could not or couldn’t.

Could and couldn’t are normally used with verbs of seeing, noticing, understanding, etc. For example –

  • She could climb trees when she was young.
  • We couldn’t swim as the swimming pool was closed.
  • We could see a tree on the hill.
  • I could smell the gas as I entered the kitchen.
  • He said that he could walk twenty km as a stretch.
  • She could play the piano when she was only seven.

For Asking for permission

Can, could, may is used to ask for permission. For example –

  • Can I borrow your pen?
  • Could I borrow your pen? (Could sound more polite than can)
  • May I borrow your pen? (May is rather formal)

For Possibility and certainly

May, might, can, could.

May is used to showing that something is possible. For example –

The old car may break down anytime.

Might is used in the past tense, in present tense it implies something is possible. For example

He said he might come tomorrow.

Might is used in the past tense, in present tense it implies something with lesser possibility than suggested by may. For example –

He might get there in time, but I’m not sure.

Could is used to say you are not sure, as an alternative to mayor might. For example –

There could be a storm.

Giving and refusing permission

Can or may is used to give permission, but not could, except in reported speech. May is formal and is not often formal used in speech, it is often used in official signs and rules.

Can’t or may not is used in refusing permission, but not couldn’t or could not, except in reported speech. For example –

1. you can wait here if you like.

2. I’m afraid you can’t park here.

3. The lift is for the patients’ and hospital staff’s use only. Visitors may use the stairs.


  1. What can I do for you?
  2. I may have the horse.
  3. you shall give alms to tour brothers.
  4. I will decide on this matter.

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