Modal Verbs: Usage and Worksheets

The verb (BE) when used with ordinary verbs to make tenses, passive forms, questions and negatives are called Auxiliary Verbs. Auxiliary verbs have two types. There are two types Auxiliary verbs. These two types are Primary Auxiliary Verbs ( Be, Have, Do, ) and Model Auxiliary Verbs or Simply Model Verbs. Here we are going to discuss about Model Verbs.

The Verbs can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must, ought to, need, dare are called Modal Verbs. These are the supporting verbs that convey the ‘mode’ or ‘manner’ of the actions suggested by the main verbs. They are used before ordinary verbs and express:

1. Permission

2. Obligation

2. Ability

3. Possibility

4. Certainty

5. Necessity

The Modals like can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would and ought are termed Defective Verbs for the reason that some parts are wanting in them and they have no (s) in their third-person singular and have no (ing) and (ed) forms.

Modal verbs do not change according to the person or number of the subject.


He can swim. They can swim.
I can swim. We can swim.
You can swim.

A modal Verb is always used with a verb in its basic form. The modal verb takes the tense while the main verb remains in its dictionary form (bare infinitive).


I can swim.
I could swim.
I may swim.
I might swim.

Modal Verbs can be used alone in response to a question.


Can you swim? I can.
Will you swin? I will.
Will you swim? I may/I will.

Modal Verbs, when joined with ‘not’ to form a negative, can be contracted.


I can not sing. = I can’t sing.
I do not sing. = I don’t sing.
I will not sing. = I won’t sing.


1. CAN:- Usually express ability or capacity; as

I can write a story.

He can divide the sum.

Can he talk fluently?

Read Also: Modals Expressing Ability

2. Can and May are used to seek permission. May is rather formal.

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You can/ may go now.

Can/ may I borrow your pen?

Note:- May is used to express possibility in affirmation sentences.

It may rain tomorrow.

He may be in the clinic tomorrow.

Can is used to used in the corresponding interrogative and negative sentences. Can this be true?

It cannot be true.

May is used to express wish ; as

May you stay blessed!

May success attend you!

Could and Might are used as the past equivalent of Can and May.

I could write a story when I was young. (Ability)

He said I might/ could go. (Permission)

I thought he might be at his office. (Possibility)

Note:– Might can be used to express a degree of dissatisfaction or reproach; as You might pay a little more attention at your studies.

Uses of Shall, Should, Will, Would

Shall is used in the first person and Will in all the persons to express pure future ; as

I shall be twenty next birthday.

We will need the money on Eid.

Tomorrow will be Sunday.

Shall is sometimes used in the second and third person to express a command, a promise or threat.

He shall not enter my office again. (Command)

You shall have a holiday today. (Promise)

You shall be punished for stealing my bag. (Threat)

Questions with Shall are asked to seek the will of the person addressed; as,

Shall I open the gate?

Which author I shall read?

Where shall we go now?

Will is used to express Volition

I will carry your message to Principal.

I will try to do better in the next test.

To express Characteristic habit

He will talk about nothing but poetry.

He will sit listening to music for hours.

Assumption/ Probability

This will be the author you want to read, I suppose.

That will be a musician, I think.

Will You indicate an invitation or a request

Will you have coffee?

Will you lend me your car?

Should and Would are used as past equivalent of Shall and Will

I dreamt that my poem should get a good reader.

He said he would carry my bag to the station.

Should is used in all persons to express duty or obligation; as

We should respect the laws.

You should keep your promise.

Children should obey their teachers.

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Read Also: Modals Expressing obligation

Should is used to express a supposition that may not be true in clauses of condition.

If it should rain, they will not come.

If he should see me here, he will kill me.

Uses of Must, Ought to

Must is used to express necessity or obligation.

You must improve your health.

We must pay our taxes.

Must refers to the present or the near future, but to talk about the past we prefer to use had to. Must has no PAST FORM.

Yesterday we had to get up early.

Must is often used when the obligation comes from the speaker, but when it comes from somewhere else, HAVE TO is often used.

I must be on diet. (my own idea)

I have to be on a die. ( Doctor’s suggestion)

Must can also express logical certainty.

Living in such a polluted city must be difficult.

He must have left already.

Ought to is used to express moral obligation/ desirability/ Probability I ought to care for my classmates.

We ought to help the needy ones.

Prices ought to come down by this weekend.

Uses of Used to, Need and Dare

Used (to) expresses a discontinued habit.

There used to be a restaurant.

I used to live there when I was a kid.

Note:- The auxiliary Need, denoting obligation can be conjugated with or without DO.

a)When conjugated without DO, Need has neither (s) or (ed) forms and is used with an infinitive without TO only in negative and interrogative sentences and in the sentences that contain semi- negative words like ‘ scarcely’ and ‘hardly’ He need not go.

Need I write a complaint?

I need hardly take his help.

b) When conjugated with DO, Need has the usual forms like needs, needed and is used with a to-infinite and is usually put to use in negatives and questions.

Do you need to go now?

I don’t need to meet him.

One needs to be careful.

Dare is generally used in negative and interrogative sentences when conjugated without DO, it is followed by an infinitive without TO but when conjugated with DO, it takes an infinitive with or without TO after it.

He dare not take such drastic steps.

How dare you contradict me?

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He dared not to do it.

He doesn’t dare speak to me.


Supply the suitable Modal

1. I don’t think I ……………be able to go

2. He ……. Not pay unless he is frequently asked.

3. You……… be punctual.

4. He ……… come, but I should be surprised.

5. ………….. I carry the bag into the house for you?

6. I was afraid that if I asked him again he…………………. refuse

7. …………you please help me with this?

8. The Prime Minister…….to make a statement tomorrow.

9. I wish he…………….not play his radio so loudly.

10. I……..him, so I sent a letter.

2. Rewrite each of these sentences, using a modal verb.

a) Possibly he isn’t my brother.

b) Perhaps we will go to Srinagar next month.

c) It is necessary that you do not wash the car.

d) Do you allow me to use your pen?

e) I suggest visiting Pari Mahal

f) I am sure he is a thief.

g) Perhaps he forgot about the match.

h) He will probably pass the driving test.

i) My brother was able to read the rhyme when he was 18 months old.

j) It is not necessary for you to wash the car.

3. Read the text given below and fill the blanks with appropriate Modals.

a) George Bernard Shaw is quite dismissive about the way the humans perceive freedom. He debunks the lofty perception about ‘freedom’ held by those who think they enjoy it. Shaw shreds this conventional wisdom into pieces through some powerful arguments. He states how, a human being, in order to stay alive, ……… eat, drink, sleep, wash, and do other bodily functions. Even if he goes into voluntary hibernation, he ……..avoid doing these functions. Nearly half of his day goes for these mundane inescapable functions. So, Shaw argues, Nature and the Creator rob the humans of half of their freedom. After this is done, a human has to work for a living. Those, who are too wealthy, need not work, but they ……… walk, do certain minimal works at home. Even these obligations can be got done through servants, animals like horses etc. But, still, freedom eludes them. They have to produce food, clothing, and a host of other goods and commodities to cater to their needs for a comfortable living. Thus, he can not quite shake off the shackles of enslavement.

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