Modal auxiliary verbs

Def:- Modal auxiliary verbs are used to show a necessity, capability, willingness, or possibility. Unlike most verbs, there is only one form for these verbs. Typically, verb forms change to indicate whether the sentence’s subject is singular or plural.

Use of model auxiliary verb:-

Modal verbs are used to express functions such as:

  1. Permission
  2. Ability
  3. Obligation
  4. Prohibition
  5. Lack of necessity
  6. Advice
  7. possibility
  8. probability



Form In Present/Future

Form in Past








To show ability



To suggest a possibility or to give an option



To ask for or to give permission



To show impossibility



I can run 10 miles.



Students can pre-enroll in classes or sign up at in-person registration.


Can I call you? You can leave when you have finished your exam.


It cannot be Jim standing over there. He went away for the weekend.



I could run 10 miles when I was in high school.






To show past ability



To ask a polite question


To show possibility




To show impossibility




To show a past opportunity that was not realized






Could I call you?


Why isn’t Maria here? She could be busy.


He could not be here at the party. He is out of town.



I could run 10 miles when I was in high school.



Why wasn’t Maria at the party last night? She could have been busy.


He could not have been at the party last night. He was out of town.


I could have asked for help on the math problem set, but I wanted to do it myself.






To ask for or to give permission (formal)



To show possibility



May I call you?


You may leave when you have finished your exam.


The instructor may come to class late today.








The instructor may have come to class late yesterday.






To show possibility



The instructor might come to class late today.



The instructor might have come to class late yesterday.





To show advisability


To show advisability after the fact






To show obligation




To show an obligation

that was not carried out


To show expectation


To show an expectation that was not realized


You should try that new restaurant downtown.








I should renew my driver’s license. It expires next month.





You should receive my letter in two days.



We should have tried

that new restaurant

downtown. (But we did not.)


You should not have said that to Tom. (But you did.)




I should have renewed

my driver’s license.

(But I forgot to do so.)



You should have received my letter two days ago. (But you did not.)




To ask a polite question


To indicate a repeated action in the past





To indicate future time in a sentence that is in the past


Would you please call me later tonight?






When I lived in Los Angeles, I would go to the beach every weekend.


Mark promised that he would help me with my math homework.





To show probability or to make a logical assumption


To show necessity





To show prohibition


Janice must be out this evening. She does not

answer her telephone.


I must call my parents

tonight. I have not talked to them in a long time.


You must not smoke in the classroom at any time.


Janice must have been out last night. She did not answer her phone.


I was late for the meeting because I had to call my parents last night.








To indicate future time




To make a promise or to show willingness




To state a general truth






To ask a polite question


We will leave for the airport at 7:00 AM tomorrow.


The federal government will provide assistance to the hurricane victims.


The new car they have developed will run on either gasoline or ethanol. (Note: time = present)


Mike, will you help me with these heavy boxes? I cannot lift them myself. (Note: time = right now)



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