Verbs are the essential component of any sentence in English. Without them, we cannot frame a perfect English sentence. Verbs are words that are used to describe an action concerning the time where that action takes place. In English, there are various ways available to communicate one’s thoughts and feelings. People may use different verbs to describe what they want, one such kind of verb is “The Modal verb”. Let’s begin our journey of understanding model verbs in a simple and effective way.
What are Modal Verbs
Firstly, there are many verbs that are considered as Modals counting on their usage in a sentence. In addition to that, there are different kinds of verbs in English such as regular and irregular verbs, transitive and intransitive verbs, helping or auxiliary verbs. Out of which the auxiliary verb is divided into a few types, one among them is a “Modal verb”. The modal verbs are also known as modal auxiliary verbs, as their function is to help the other verbs express their mood or voice, Modals being a part of an auxiliary verb also helps the main verb in a way making it easier to understand.
They are different from other verbs in English and function in an irregular way. They assist and add more information about the main verb. The primary function of modal auxiliary verbs in English is to help the main verb to indicate its certainty, possibility, ability, obligation, etc. Most importantly in order to speak English effectively, one should make use of modal verbs.
Properties of modals in english
A verb should own certain properties in order to consider it as a modal verb. Below are the primary properties of modals in English grammar.
- The modals do not have any kind of inflection, that is there is no need of using suffixes “-s or -es” to the modal verb.
- Modals cannot be used as infinitives.
- Modals can be used as auxiliary verbs in order to understand the main verb better.
Use of Modal verbs
- A modal verb does not change according to the subject. For example, “We can read .They can read. You can read. She can read”.
- A modal verb is usually used with a verb in its basic form. The modals change in Tense while the main verb stays in its dictionary form. For example, “I can swim. I could swim. I may swim”.
- Modal verbs can be used alone in response to a question. For example, Can you read? I can. Will you read? I will.
- Modals can be contracted, when joined with “not” to form a negative. For example, I can not dance. I can’t dance. I do not dance. I don’t dance.
Below are the major usages of the nine most common modals in English with their positive and negative form.
Usage of Can
Can, as a modal verb is used to express capacity/ability, possibility, permission. Additionally, it is also used to make a request, and offer. In its negative form “can” be used to express impossibility.
Examples using “can”
Used to express someone’s “Ability” to do something
- I can read 15 books in a week.
- He can run fast
- We can help the poor.
Used to express “General possibility”
- We can dance together when they come.
- You can buy groceries from the super market.
- smoking can cause lung infection.
Used to make a “Request” both in a formal and informal way, when someone is unable to do something
- Can i have some juice, please?
- Can you pass the paper?
- Can you switch off the lights?
Used to ask/give “Permission”
- You can take my books.
- She can go to her home now.
- They can take leave today.
Used to express one’s ability to “Offer” help or do something to someone
- If you want, she can cook for you.
- Can I help them?
- Can i get you some snacks?
Used in negative form when someone is not sure about something
- That can’t be Prem. He is in Australia.
- It can’t be drizzling. There is no clouds.
- You can’t wear jeans to college.
Usage of Could
Could, as a modal verb is used to talk about an ability in the past. Most importantly Could is the past form of “Can” and it is used express both past and present situations. Could is used to ask questions even more politely than “Can”. In the same vein could is used to show request, possibility, permission etc.
Examples using “Could”
Used to indicate “Past Ability”
- She said that she could cook well.
- My father could do magic when i was younger.
Used to express “Possibility”
- Raja could go to Coimbatore in search of a job.
- He could be the one who stole the jwellery.
Used to show “Request”
- Could I have something to eat?
- Could i borrow your Pencil.
Used to express “Permission”
- Could you please pass the Notebook?
- Could I use your mobile today?
Usage of “May”
“May” is the most polite of among all modals in English. Additionally May can be used to denote Permission, Possibility, Wish and Probability.
Used to express “Permission”
- May i get in?
- You may get my food on my behalf.
Used to denote “Possibility”
- It may rain in the evening.
- She may be your class teacher next year.
Used to show “Wish”
- May you succeed in whatever you do.
- My your mom always be with you.
Used to express “Probability”