We use modal verbs for:
|can||to express ability||I can speak a little English.|
|can||to request permission||Can I have a drink of water, please?|
|may||to express possibility||I may miss the train.|
|May||to request permission||May I wash my hands, please?|
|May||To express probability||He may win the race at this rate.|
|must||to express obligation||I must study more.|
|must||to express strong belief||She must be very wealthy.|
|should||to give advice||You should do more exercise.|
|would||to request or offer||Would you like a cup of tea?|
|would||in if-sentences||If I were you, I would take a break.|
|could||To express past ability||I could swim when I was 6 years old.|
|could||To express possibility||It could be a good idea.|
|Might||To express possibility||It might help you find a job.|
There are two types of modal verb:
- BARE INFINITIVE. We normally use the bare infinitive (verb without to) after the modal. For instance: I should study more. I can play the flute.
- FULL INFINITIVE. We sometimes use the mull infinitive. For example: I ought to go. I have to learn more vocabulary to become fluent.
Modal perfect: talking about an unreal past
MODAL VERB + HAVE + PARTICIPLE
I should have learnt English as a child = I didn´t learn English as a child
You might have told me that you were going to be late = You didn´t tell me
He could have listened to the instructions = He didn´t listen to the instructions
Modal verbs are very easy to use and they are used as the aixiliary in a question, like:
Can you show me the way to the beach?
Must we do all the exercises for homework?
It is important to understand that there are similar expressions that are synonyms or have a very similar meaning to some modal verbs.
Can (ability) = be able to, be capable of, know how to
May (permission) = be permitted, be allowed, let, be ok, might, could, be able to
Must (obligation) = be required, be essential, have to, be obliged, be obligatory
CAN´T (prohibition) = mustn´t, be forbidden, be prohibited, be against the rules / not be able to etc.
Should (advice) = be advisable, be recommended, be a good idea, ought to. had better
NEEDN´T (lack of necessity) = not have to, not need to, not be necessary
For extra practice with modal verbs, click HERE