In our previous lesson, we talked about one of the most significant yet complex topics from elementary grammar. It was all about tenses. If you haven’t read it yet, you can head to that lesson by clicking here. But there is so much more that English grammar has to offer to its learners. While it may seem a lot, this breakdown of various topics an elementary grammar helps to learn English a lot easier. But, only if you practice it regularly. In this lesson, we will understand the concept of modal verbs, what it means, its various types, example sentences, and a lot more.
1. What are modal verbs?
You might think, that since we have already studied about verbs, why do we need to study about modal verbs separately? Well, here is the answer. Modal verbs fall more in the irregular category. Remember, how we studied the concept of the main verb and supporting Verb? So, it is the job of these verbs to support the main verb.
The exact definition of a modal verb or model phrases is that they help to express likely heard, ability, capacity, obligation, order advice, request, permission, or suggestions. In short, they are the helping verbs.
For example, Could you give me your book?
In the above sentence, you will notice that the word “could” expresses request.
2. What do you also call such verbs?
These verbs that express different things to help the main verb in the sentence are also called as auxiliary verbs.
Learn more about verbs in the following lesson:
3. Which are the modal verbs?
There are specific model verbs that can be used based on the tense of the sentence. They are:
4. Which are they modal auxiliaries?
Words that you can use as modal auxiliaries are there, ought to, had better, and need not.
5. When to use can or could?
Can and could are those modal verbs which you can use to express More than one thing. But, it is important to use can in The present, While, good is mostly used to express past tense.
Here is where you can use can or could:
1. To express ability or capability: This is mostly in the present and future tense. For example, I can help you with designing your house next week. In this example, you can see that the word can is used to express activity in the future. Let’s look at an example in the present tense. he can run a mile in 5 minutes. Here the word can
speaks about in action in the present tense period it also expresses the ability or capability of
the subject “he.”
Lastly, we will also take a look at an example of the past tense. When I was younger I could lose weight faster than now. Very clearly, the world could in the sentence also speaks of the ability to be able to lose weight faster. It’s also evident that it is speaking about activity in the past tense.
2. To express a possibility or an impossibility: He can’t see you right now. He is in a meeting. When you take a look at this example, you will find that the word “can’t” speaks of an Impossibility. It is also in the present tense. Another example is, I could reach earlier if I take the shortcut route.
3. To ask or to give permission: This is one of the simplest uses of the modal verbs can and could. Mom, can I go to the cinema tonight? In this sentence, the word “can” is asking for permission. Let’s take a look at another example; could you give me your book? Yet again, we use “could” to ask for permission but in a formal and polite language.
4. To give a suggestion: You could take the bus or the train. Both are comfortable. In this example, you can see how the world could be giving a suggestion to somebody to pick between the train and bus.
6. When to use may or might in a sentence?
May or might are those modal verbs that are used mostly in the formal language. So it would be very appropriate to use them at official places or while having an official conversation. The places where you can use these verbs are:
1. To make a polite request: An example to explain this would be enough to understand this usage. May I come in, please?
2. To ask or to give permission formally: You may start working on your project now. When you take a look at this example you will find that using the word may make the sentence sound very polite. Of course, you can use can in place of may, but, it would sound more like an order.
3. To express a possibility: much like the previous model verb this one also expresses a possibility. Let’s take a look at an example; it may rain tonight. Here the word May is expressing a possibility that it may rain, but there is also a possibility that it may not.
4. To make a suggestion: You may as well apply for a medical leave. It doesn’t look like you can join work soon. In the sentence, you can see that the word May is more like a suggestion to apply for leave.
5. To express a wish: When you want to express wishes followed by exclamation marks, you can use may. For example, may you live a long life!