Concept: Modal Auxiliaries
- Modal auxiliaries are helping verbs that are used with a main verb to express probability, permission, ability, necessity, etc.
- Modal auxiliaries are parts of verbs that are usually not used separately.
- They function along with the main verb without being directly involved in the main action.
- There are a total of nine modal auxiliary verbs - can, could, shall, should, may, might, must, will, and would.
Rules of Using a Modal Auxiliary
- The sentence above shows the format of the modal auxiliary in a sentence. It is usually used between the noun and the verb.
- The sample sentence expresses the possibility that Ravi will probably visit the person’s house.
Now let us understand the different purposes of the various modal auxiliaries.
a) Uses of ‘can’:
- It is used to express ability, to ask for permission or whether something is possible or not, and to make a polite request.
- It can also be used to indicate some action which might happen in the future.
1. Ability - She can drive a car.
2. Ask for permission - Can I borrow yourumbrella?
3. Possibility - Do you think we can win the match?
4. Indicating future action – If it doesn’t rain, we can go to play outside.
b)Uses of ‘could’:
- ‘Could’ is the past form of’ ‘can’. It is used to express an ability or a possibility that was possible in the past.
- It is also used to talk about something that we wish to happen, but is actually not possible.
- It can be used to describe an action that has the possibilityto take place but actually didn’t occur.
- We use ‘can’ and ‘could’ both to make a polite request, to frame a question, or to give suggestions.
1. Ability:When I was in school, I could practice playing football for hours.
2. Probability:I wish I could fly like a bird.
3. Possibility:I could have won the quiz if I had studied harder.
4. Suggestion: Could you please help me with the math problem?
c)Uses of ‘may’:
- ‘May’ is usually used to talk about the possibility of something happening right away.
- It is used to express permission or make a polite request.
1. You may get selected for the tournament.
2. May I ask you a question?
d)Uses of ‘might’:
- It is used to talk about an action that has a high possibility of happening.
- It is also used to describe an uncertain future action.
1. We might go to watch a movie today.
2. My father might attend the parent-teacher meeting.
3. I might have had junk food last night, and my stomach is upset today.
e)Uses of 'must':
- ‘Must’ is used to give orders to someone.
- It is also used to express an obligation to someone.
- Another use of ‘must’ is to provide advice.
1. All the students must bring their textbooks to the class.
2. You must brush your teeth before sleep.
3. You must buy the coffee maker. It is great.
f)Uses of 'shall':
- It is used to show an action that will take place in the future.
- We use it to express determination.
- It is used to talk about an intention about an action that will happen in the future.
1. Tomorrow, I shall be going to Mumbai to attend a meeting.
2. They shall apologize for what they did.
g)Uses of 'should':
- The modal verb ‘should’ is used to give advice or suggestions.
- It is also used to describe a probable situation.
1. He should call his father.
2. They should come to the party.
h)Uses of 'will':
- ‘Will’ is used to talk about an action that will happen in the near future.
- We generally use ‘will’ to ask for information about certain actions in the future.
- It can be used to make a request.
- It is used to refer to an action or situation that will surely take place in the future.
1. They will visit my house tomorrow.
2. Will you go to the picnic?
3. Will you please cook tonight?
4. We will get snow in Kashmir in February.
i)Uses of 'would':
- It is used as the past form of ‘will’.
- It is also used to make a polite request when used in a question statement.
- ‘Would’ is used to talk abouta present situation or event which could be unreal.
- Another use of ‘would’ is to talk about a habit or an action that one used to do in the past.
1. Rashmi said she would complete her homework.
2. Would you like to have a cup of coffee?
3. I would be in a big problem if my father was not there with me.
4. Radha would go swimming every day when she was younger.
1. The modal auxiliaries should not be confused with the primary auxiliaries. Like the different forms of ‘be’ ‘do’ and ‘have’. As these words sometimes can be used with modal auxiliaries.
2. There are some modal auxiliaries that are known as quasi modal auxiliaries that are used along with the word ‘to’.
a)‘Ought to’-Used to express advice.
We ought to drink a lot of water.
b)‘Need to’-Used to express necessity.
You need to do exercise regularly.
c) ‘Used to’-Used to express habitual action in the past.
I used to enjoy a walk here in the evening.