Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Definition of Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Modal Auxiliary Verbs are one of the types of Auxiliary Verbs which facilitate the main verbs providing more information like- mood, possibility, time, expectation, permission, ability and obligation.

One main property of Modal Auxiliary Verbs is that they never change form; either while referring to singular or plural nouns. For Ex- They can, he can, she can, it can and I can. The Modal Auxiliary Verb ‘can’ remains same for I, he, she, we, they, singular noun or a plural noun.  Similarly all other Modal Auxiliary Verbs never change forms with respect to the nouns.

Modal Auxiliary Verbs List

The following are the frequently used Modal Auxiliary Verbs in English-

Can, could, will, would, shall, should, may, might, must and ought.

What Do Modal Auxiliary Verbs Express?

As we know that Modal Auxiliary Verbs facilitate the main verbs and express possibility, expectation, permission etc. We will briefly go through what does each of Modal Verb expresses with the help of Example Sentences.

1) Auxiliary Verbs - Can/Could

“Auxiliary Verb Can”

Modal Auxiliary verb ‘can’ is used to express ability, request and possibility, as we will see in the following examples.

  1. a) To Express Ability/Inability
  • I can drive safely.
  • Oliver can perform two tasks at a time.
  • She can climb the stairs.
  • They can perform on stage.
  • She can cook really well.
  • HE can ride a horse.

The above sentences use ‘can’ as a Modal Auxiliary Verb to express the ability of completing a specific task (verb).

The Negative form of modal Verb ‘can’ can also be used to express inability by complementing it with ‘not’. For Ex-

  • He cannot drive safely.
  • Oliver cannot perform two tasks at a time.
  • She cannot climb the stairs.
  • They cannot perform on stage.
  • She cannot cook really well.
  • He cannot ride a horse.

‘Cannot ‘is also expressed as ‘can’t’ in short form-

  • He can’t drive safely.
  • Oliver can’t perform two tasks at a time.
  • He can’t ride a horse.

 

  1. b) To Express Possibility or Non Possibility
  • Riding a horse can be challenging.
  • Learning two languages can be difficult.
  • Calling the police can be helpful.
  • Riding without helmet can be dangerous.
  • Too much of junk food can make u sick.

All the above sentences express the nature of the outcome, if a particular action is taken. That is, if two languages are learned, then it can be difficult and it can be helpful to call the police. Please note that ‘can’ only expresses a possibility but not certainty.

The negative form of ‘can’ can also be used to express Non Possibility or Disbelief as expressed in the examples below.

  • He cannot be so rude.
  • It can’t be dark yet.
  • The food is good. He can’t refuse it.
  • He can’t say that to me.
  • They can’t arrest him.

The above sentences express that a particular event is impossible or is not expected under normal circumstances.

  1. c) To Make Requests or Refusals

Modal Auxiliary Verb ‘can’ can be used to make requests as shown in below example sentences-

  • Can I go out now? (request)
  • Can you give me your car?(request)
  • You can do as you like.
  • Can you make it for two?
  • Can you call me after some time? (request)

In the above sentences Modal Verb ‘can’ is used to make requests, but its Negative form can be used to make refusals as demonstrated below-

  • You can’t have that. (refusal)
  • I can’t give my car to you. (refusal)
  • You can’t go out. (refusal)
  • They can’t enter without permission. (refusal)
  • She can’t leave early. (refusal)

 

 

“Could/Couldn’t”

There are various ways in which ‘could/couldn’t’ can be used, as explained below-

  1. a) As the Past Tense of Can/Can’t

Could/Couldn’t can be used as the past tense of can/can’t as shown in the examples below-

  • I could walk for miles when I was a kid. (Speaking of the past i.e. when I was a kid)
  • You could have called me. (past)
  • He could have lost his way. (past)
  • You couldn’t ride in night few decades back. (past)
  • He couldn’t have scolded you for that. (past)
  • They couldn’t have reached on time. (past)
  1. b) To Make a Polite Request

‘Could’ can also be used to make polite requests as shown in the sentences below-

  • Could I take the dog out? (request)
  • Could you please do me a favor? (request)
  • Could I eat now please?
  • Could she wait for me?
  • Could you lend me the book?
  1. c) To Express a Present Possibility

‘Could’ can also be used to express the Possibility of the occurrence of an event ‘now’ as shown in sentences below-

  • They could have called you by now. (in this moment)
  • The package could have arrived by now.
  • He could be preparing for exams. (at this moment)
  • She could be leaving for home.
  • It could be harmful to health.

 

2) Auxiliary Verbs - Will/Would

“Auxiliary Verb Will”

Modal Auxiliary Verb ‘will’ is used to express future possibilities, beliefs, plans, offers or promises. Below we will go through different shades of ‘will’ with suitable example sentences.

  1. a) To Express Future Possibilities or Beliefs/Non Possibility or Disbelief

Modal Auxiliary Verb ‘will’ is used to express an event that is possible in the near or far future or is believed to appear. For Ex-

  • He will call you tomorrow. (near future)
  • The species of tiger will extinct from the planet. (uncertain time)
  • They will give you a grand farewell. (future time not specified)
  • She will marry you soon. (anytime in near future)
  • He will come to the party. (future time not specified)
  • The storm will be back again. (could be anytime in future)

The auxiliary Verb ‘will’ in all the above sentences express a future possibility of an event or the speaker’s belief in their occurrence.

Similarly, the Negative form of ‘will’ can be used to express the Non possibility of an event or the disbelief, as shown in the examples below-

  • He will not call you tomorrow.
  • The species of tiger will not extinct from the planet.
  • They will not give you a grand farewell.
  • She will not marry you soon.
  • He will not come to the party.
  • The storm will not be back again.

‘Will not’ can also be expressed as ‘won’t’ which is its short form, as given below-

  • He won’t call you tomorrow.
  • The species of tiger won’t extinct from the planet.
  • They won’t give you a grand farewell.
  • She won’t marry you soon.
  • He won’t come to the party.
  • The storm won’t be back again.
  1. b) To Make Offers

‘Will’ can also be used to make offers or promises, but in that case it must follow a noun or noun form like he will, she will, I will etc. Go through the below example sentences-

  • I will come to see you tomorrow.
  • She will help you out of it.
  • They will take care of your belongings.
  • It will benefit your health.
  • He will treat you well.

 

“Auxiliary Verb Would/ Wouldn’t”

‘Would’ is used as the Past Tense of ‘will’. It is used to express the events or the things of past that were willingly performed and are also used to express the unreal possibilities. We will go through them in details as given below-

  1. a) As the Past Tense of ‘Will’

‘Would’ when used as the Past Tense of ‘will’, expresses the past events with a future possibility or simply express a past event like in the below sentences-

  • He told me that he would come for the meeting.
  • HE told me that he wouldn’t come for the meeting.
  • When they were kids they would play all day long.
  • When they were kids they wouldn’t play all day long.
  • Few years back, he would call me every day.
  • Few years back, he wouldn’t call me every day.
  • If he was there, he would have liked it.
  • Had she studied, she would have excelled.
  1. b) In Hypothetical Situations

‘Would’ can be used to express hypothetical situations; that is, situations those are unreal and unlikely to appear. For Ex-

  • If I would be the Prime Minister, I would have eliminated child labor.
  • If I would be the principal I would reduce the school hours.
  • What would you do if you are stranded on an island?
  1. c) To Talk About the Outcome

‘Would’ can also be used to talk about the result or outcome of a situation, action or event. For Ex-

  • It would be expensive to hire a cab.
  • It would be very cheap to dine at home.
  • He would be happy to meet you.
  • It would be dangerous to confront him.
  • It would be harmful to eat there.

 

3) Auxiliary Verbs - Shall/Should

“Auxiliary Verb Shall”

Auxiliary Verb ‘shall’ is used to express an offer, suggestion, expectation or to give advice. All the uses of ‘shall’ have been described below with examples. Note-

  1. a) To Offer Or Suggest Politely

Auxiliary Verb ‘shall’ is used to offer, when the speaker is assured of an affirmative reply. For ex-

  • Shall we start eating now? (offer)
  • Shall I make the call? (offer)
  • Shall we go for a ride? (offer)
  • We shall stay for few more days. (suggestion)
  • You shall quit smoking. (suggestion)
  1. b) To Ask a Question

‘Should’ is used to ask a question if the speaker is not sure of the events. For Ex-

  • Should I call him?
  • Should I call police?
  • Should I get him arrested?
  • Should we leave early?

The Negative Form of ‘should’ can also be use to express questions-

  • Shouldn’t I call him?
  • Shouldn’t I call police?
  • Shouldn’t I get him arrested?
  • Shouldn’t we leave early?
  1. c) To Make Predictions/Expectations

‘Should’ can also be used to predict or expect a future event, as shown below-

  • The project should be finished on time.
  • The train should arrive soon.
  • It should work as expected.

The Negative Form of should- ‘Shouldn’t ‘can also be used to negate an expectation, as below-

  • The project shouldn’t be finished on time.
  • The train shouldn’t arrive soon.
  • You shouldn’t complain about it.
  • You shouldn’t misbehave properly.

 

4) Auxiliary Verbs - May/Might

“Auxiliary Verb May”

Auxiliary Verb ‘May’ can be used into different forms as described below-

  1. a) To Express Possibility

To express statements when we are not sure about the occurrence of an event-

  • He may come for the meeting. (future possibility)
  • There may be a power cut today. (future possibility)
  • The fight may be delayed.
  • People may refuse to obey.
  • She may decline the proposal.

The Negative form of the ‘may’ can be used to express the negative as shown below-

  • He may not come for the meeting. (future improbability)
  • There may not be a power cut today. (future improbability)
  • The flight many not be delayed.
  • People may not refuse to obey.
  1. b) To Make Requests

‘May’ can be used to make polite requests as shown in the statements below-

  • May I borrow your book? (request politely)
  • May we go together? (polite request)
  • May she call you today?
  • May it clean my room?
  • May you lend me your car?

“Auxiliary Verb Might”

  1. a) To Express Possibility

Auxiliary Verb ‘might’ is used to express the occurrence of an event, which has a remote possibility of occurrence. For Ex-

  • He might lose all his belongings.
  • He might be able to reach on time.
  • They might revoke his suspension.
  • If I study, I might be the chancellor.
  • If they agree, he might get the promotion.

Note- ‘May’ expresses an almost true possibility while ‘might’ expresses a remote possibility.

  1. b) As the Past Tense of May

The most distinct feature of ‘might’ is that it is the Past Tense of ‘may’. The best way of using ‘might’ as the Past Tense of ‘may’ is while talking about past events as demonstrated in the Examples below-

  • He might have lost everything, had his friends didn’t helped him. (Past Tense)
  • You might have reached on time, if the train had not been delayed. (Past Tense)
  • They might have sacked you, had they not considered your good conduct. (Past Tense)
  • It might have hurt you, had you not been careful.(Past Tense)
  • She might have called you, had you not been out of town. (Past Tense)

 

5) Auxiliary Verbs - Must/have-has to/Ought

“Must”

Auxiliary Verb ‘must’ indicates a necessity or urgency as expressed in the sentences below-

  • He must leave now. (urgency)
  • She must behave properly.(necessity)
  • They must refrain from illegal activities. (necessity)
  • You must teach him a lesson. (necessity)
  • We must report the incident to police. (urgency)

The above sentences indicate urgency for the action to be performed immediately.

“have/has to”

To make the matter sound less urgent we use ‘have to’ instead of ‘must’ as shown in the examples below-

  • He has to leave now.
  • She has to behave properly.
  • They have to refrain from illegal activities.
  • You have to teach him a lesson.
  • We have to report the incident to police.

The above statements express less urgency as compared to the statements with auxiliary verb ‘must’.

“Ought”

Auxiliary Verb ‘ought’ is used to express a duty or an obligation and is always followed by ‘to’. Below given are some examples of using ‘ought’-

  • He ought to be sensitive.
  • You ought to visit your father.
  • We ought to take care of the children.
  • She ought to feed her pet.
  • They ought to set an example.

‘Ought’ can also be used to express past as shown in the statements below-

  • You ought to have called him.
  • They ought to have helped the kids.
  • She ought to have carried her baby.
  • I ought to have called my father.
  • We ought to have hurried to home.

 

Exercises/Worksheets/Activities on Modal Auxiliary Verbs with Answers

Fill In The Blanks/MCQ Exercises/Worksheet/Activities On Modal Auxiliary Verbs With Answers:

Fill in the blanks by choosing the correct Modal Auxiliary Verbs from the choices given below ever question. Verify your answer with the answers provided in the end of the exercise.

Note- Take hint from the expression provided at the end of sentences.

1) My father ________ still walk for miles. (ability)

  1. a) could
  2. b) can
  3. c) would

2) The horse is old, but it ________ still run for miles. (ability)

  1. a) can
  2. b) could
  3. c) should

3) _________ I sleep here? (permission)

  1. a) will
  2. b) can
  3. c) would

4) I ________ ride a horse. (Inability)

  1. a) can’t
  2. b) can
  3. c) wouldn’t

5) The police ________ catch the thief. (inability)

  1. a) can
  2. b) can’t
  3. c) would

6) ________ you prepare the dinner please. (polite request)

  1. a) would
  2. b) should
  3. c) could

7) When I was young I _________ play for hours. (past ability)

  1. a) can
  2. b) would
  3. c) could

8) While in his childhood, Rocky ______ climb a tree. (past inability)

  1. a) can’t
  2. b) couldn’t
  3. c) shouldn’t

9) The package ________ be delivered by now. (present possibility)

  1. a) could
  2. b) would
  3. c) should

10) He _________ have received the money by now. (non possibility)

  1. a) wouldn’t
  2. b) shouldn’t
  3. c) couldn’t

 

11) I ________ see to it that the job is completed. (assurance)

  1. a) would
  2. b) will
  3. c) should

12) I __________ help you in the exams. (Refusal with a reference to future activity)

  1. a) won’t
  2. b) can’t
  3. c) shouldn’t

13) The children ________ get up early during holidays and started playing. (past occurrence)

  1. a) would
  2. b) could
  3. c) should

14) During early years he _________ express himself.

  1. a) couldn’t
  2. b) wouldn’t
  3. c) shouldn’t

15) If I ______ be a police officer, I will fight the criminals. (hypothetical)

  1. a) shall
  2. b) can
  3. c) would

16) We ________ inform the principal. (suggestion)

  1. a) may
  2. b) shall
  3. c) could

17) You________ go to the party. (Negative suggestion)

  1. a) couldn’t
  2. b) shall not
  3. c) wouldn’t

18) ________ we eat now? (Polite request)

  1. a) may
  2. b) might
  3. c) shall

19) The flight _________ arrive on time. (expectation)

  1. a) could
  2. b) should
  3. c) would

20) He ________ also bring his pet with him. (unsure)

  1. a) may
  2. b) will
  3. c) can

21) The authorities _________ revoke the curfew. (Negatively unsure)

  1. a) couldn’t
  2. b) may not
  3. c) can’t

22) It ________ cause health hazards. (unsure)

  1. a) will
  2. b) can
  3. c) may

23) He _________ appear in the function. (remote possibility)

  1. a) may
  2. b) might
  3. c) can

24) If they were strict, he _______ have lost his job. (weak possibility)

  1. a) will
  2. b) might
  3. c) could

25) You _______ go to the doctor. (Urgency)

  1. a) can
  2. b) could
  3. c) must

26) You _________ cheat anybody.

  1. a) must
  2. b) must not
  3. c) may not

27) You _______ study hard. (Necessity)

  1. a) must
  2. b) could
  3. c) should

28) She ________ misuse the powers.

  1. a) must
  2. b) must not
  3. c) would not

29) We _______ to visit our parents. (mild persuasion)

  1. a) has to
  2. b) must
  3. c) have to

30) He ________ behave politely. (Mild persuasion)

  1. a) has to
  2. b) must
  3. c) would

31) You ________ respect elders. (moral obligation)

  1. a) have to
  2. b) ought to
  3. c) has to

32) He __________ behaved properly with the teachers. (Past obligation)

  1. a) ought to
  2. b) ought to have
  3. c) should

 

Answers- 1)b, 2)a, 3)b, 4)a, 5)b, 6)c, 7)c, 8)b, 9)a, 10)c, 11)b, 12)a, 13)a, 14)b, 15)c, 16)b, 17)b, 18)c, 19)b, 20)a, 21)b, 22)c, 23)b, 24)b, 25)c, 26)b, 27)a, 28)b, 29)c, 30)a, 31)b, 32)b

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