modal verb

can/could may/might will/would shall/should must

  • The modals are used to show that we believe something is certain, probable or possible

  • We use modal verbs to show if we believe something is certain, probable or possible (or not).

  • We also use modals to do things like talking about ability, asking permission making requests and offers, and so on.


  • We use the modals could, might and may to show that something is possible in the future, but not certain.

  • We use could have, might have and may have to show that something was possible now or at some time in the past.

  • We use the modal can to make general statements about what is possible.


We use the negative can’t or cannot to show that something is impossible.


  • We use the modal must to show we are sure something to be true and we have reasons for our belief.

  • We use the modal should to suggest that something is true or will be true in the future, and to show you have reasons for your suggestion.


  • We use can to talk about the ability to do something at a given time in the present or future
  • May is another more formal and polite way of asking and giving for permission.

Instructions and requests

  • We use could you and would you as polite ways of telling or asking someone to do something.

Suggestions and advice

  • We use should to make suggestions and give advice.
  • We use could to make suggestions.
  • We use conditionals to give advice.

Offers and invitations

  • We use can I… and shall I… to make offers.
  • We use would you like (to) ... for invitations. And use you must or we must for a very polite invitation.

Obligation and necessity

  • We use must to say that it is necessary to do something.
  • We use had to for this if we are talking about the past.


Use to express ability

Ex. He can speak Chinese.

A kangaroo can jump very far.

I can’t play golf.

Use to ask for permission

Ex. Can I use your bathroom?

Can I raise the volume?

Can you tell me the way to the bank, please?

Use to make requests or suggestions

Ex. Can I have the bill?

You can do whatever you want.

You can’t sit here.


Describes an ability that someone had in the past

Ex. I could swim when I was young.

He could ride a bike when he was young.

She couldn’t get a job anywhere.

Often used to express permission politely

Ex. Could I have your name, please?You could borrow my umbrella.

Could you lend me a dictionary please?

Used to talk about completely unrealistic situations

Ex.  I’m so angry, I could murder her.

I ‘m so hungry, I could eat all food in the


I already drink coffee. I could work without

sleeping for few daays.

To show that something is possible in the future, 

but not certain

Ex. It could rain later. Take an umbrella.

If we don’t hurry we could be late.

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modal verb

by grea26


Public - 8/31/16, 7:37 AM