Modals are auxiliary verbs that indicate modality. Modality is the attitude or the connotation we want to express.

Modal verbs are used to express: ability, advice, obigation, prohibition, permission, possibility…..

Ability  – can  / could (in the past)

Obligation  – must  / have to

Prohibition  – mustn’t  / can’t 

Absence of obligation  – don’t have to  / needn’t

Advice  should  / ought to

Permission  – may  / can / could

Certainty  – must 

Probability  – may / might / can / could 

Examples

  • Ability  – He can speak several languages / I could jump when I was younger
  • Obligation  – You must stop at a red traffic light /  I have to work
  • Prohibition   – We mustn’t tell him / You can’t smoke here
  • Absence of obligation  – She doesn’t have to do that / He needn’t buy it
  • Advice  – He should study more / She ought to eat less
  • Permission  – Can we come? / May I go to the toilet?
  • Certainty  –  He must be very tired. He has been working hard
  • Probability   –  It may / might rain tomorrow  / This can / could be dangerous

Modals verbs exercises

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