Modal Verbs

What Is a Modal Verb, and How Do Modal Verbs Work in English?

  • Modal verbs are special auxiliary verbs we use to express concepts such as possibility, permission, advisability, ability, prediction, and so on.
  • Different languages have different ways of expressing these notions, so the kinds of modals, their number, and their features vary a lot. This can make them seem difficult, but it’s mostly a question of vocabulary and “getting your mind right”.

So, how do modals work in English?

  • Modals are unchangeable: they don’t take an -s in Third Person Singular Present, they have no -ing form, infinitive, to-infinitive, or participle. Also, talking about a “past form” is misleading: COULD can be the past of CAN, but it needn’t be. Think of “Could you repeat that?”
  • Modals are mutually incompatible: “There can only be one.“ That’s  why you can’t combine WILL and CAN.
  • Modals always go with a bare infinitive: If you say, “I must to study modal verbs” you are so very right. You cannot put “to” after a modal, ever.
  • If there is a modal, it’s the “A” in “Las preguntas se hacen ASI, las negaciones SANI.” Linguists say it’s the “Operator”. Think about “I can’t play the guitar.”

→ All modal verbs work exactly like CAN.

What Modal Verbs Are There In English?


Details about specific types of modal verbs are here.

Modals at click here.

Modals in context: follow this link.

Worksheet “Situations” and the tables above: right here.

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