Modal Verb- Definition, List, Examples, Uses & Exercise

Modal Verb: As we know verb is used to describe an action. But what do modal verbs do? Why is it essential to have a modal verb in the sentence? So here in this article, we will get answers to all our questions. As we are familiar with verbs that are of two types, that is main verbs and helping verbs (also called auxiliary verbs). Helping verbs are further of two types, that is Primary Verbs and Modal Verbs. When a helping verb is used to express possibility, conditionality, necessity, obligation, ability, probability, or wishful desires then that verb is known as a Modal  Verb.

Modal Verb Definition

Modal verbs are one of the types of helping verbs (also known as “auxiliary verbs”). Normally modal verbs cannot work alone and must work with the main verb. The so-called “semi-modals” work partly like modals and partly like main verbs. Modal Verbs functions to help verbs to express probability, possibility, necessity, ability, duty, obligation, suggestion, advice, request, etc. Simply we can say “A verb used to express mood(mode) or attitude of a speaker is called Modal Verb”.

For Example,

  1. You should regularly go for a morning walk
  2. They must attend tomorrow’s meeting.
  3. May I use your pen, please?
  4. You can park the car in front of our house.
  5. You may take these books home.
  6. Could you open the door, please?

The words in bold are the modal verbs.

List of Common Modal Verb

The most common modal verb is:

ShouldWouldMustOught to
Am/Was toHave/Had toUsed toNeed
DareShall, Will

Examples of Modal Verb

The most common modal verb such as may, might, must, can, could, shall, should, will, would, and ought to are used in the sentences to help the main verbs. Below are the examples of usages of modal verbs:

Modal  VerbExamples of Modal Verbs
MayMay I go out for a while?
MightSagar might be able to perform tomorrow
MustWe must focus on our studies.
CanNo one can feel my pain?
CouldCould you please switch off your phone?
ShallWe shall be prepared for the next round
ShouldWhy should we hire you?
WillWho will be the next millionaire?
WouldIf I was educated, I would be a damn fool.
Ought toYou ought to obey the traffic rules.

Different uses of Modal Verb

As you are aware that modal verbs are used to express the mood and attitude of a speaker. These verbs show modalities such as possibility, necessity, ability, permission, and suggestion and are used to express these modalities. Below are some uses of modal verbs:

Modal Verb of Possibility.

The modal verbs could, may, and might indicate that there is a possibility or probability that something will happen.

  • I could pass this class.
  • Jason may bring chips to the party.
  • My parents might say yes.
  • You could get hurt.
  • Lola may change her mind.

When you exchange these verbs for other modal verbs, such as will and shall, they indicate a promise or certainty that something will happen.

  • I shall pass this class.
  • Jason will bring chips to the party.
  • My parents will say yes.
  • You will get hurt.
  • Lola will change her mind.

Modal Verb of Necessity

The modal verb must or should indicate that something needs to happen.

  • I must learn to drive.
  • We should work together.
  • The teacher should extend the deadline.
  • Katie must work harder.
  • My sister must feed her dog.

Modal Verb of Ability

Can is the main modal verb that shows one’s ability to do something.

  • I can swim well.
  • Our class can’t solve the math problem.
  • We cannot beat the other team.
  • Percy can hold his breath for two minutes.
  • Mr. Tracer can’t meet with you until tomorrow.

Could is a modal verb that shows one’s past ability.

“I could swim well as a child” indicates that the speaker could swim well in the past.

Modal Verb of Permission

Modal verbs can be used to ask permission or grant permission. Such verb includes could, may, shall, and would.

  • Could I borrow your pencil? (Yes, you may.)
  • May I be excused? (No, you may not.)
  • Shall I take your coat? (Yes, you may.)
  • Would you mind if I sat here? (No, I wouldn’t.)

Modal Verb of Suggestion

Another use of modal verbs is to make suggestions. Use could, might, must, and should to make a suggestion or give advice, often with the verbs “want to” or “consider.”

  • We could split a pizza.
  • You might want to wait until tomorrow.
  • Tim must consider a third option.
  • You should wear a coat today.

Modal Verb: Exercises

Fill in the blanks with the following modal verb:

1. She expects that her son …… (Can return/ may return/ should return)

2. If we request her she ……..To college (must give a lift/ might give life/Can give a life)

3. She advised that I ……… curtail expenditure. (should/shall/should have)

4. You ……… him that gambling would ruin him. (should warn/ should have warned/must warn).

5. She……… Work hard if she wants to top the merit list. (must have/must/must not)

6. She ……… alone as it was raining heavily. (must not leave/must not have left/should not leave)

7. Since the keys are with my brother, I …….. your money (will not lend/cannot lend/may not lend)

8. She told me that she…….. English fluently and was very happy. (could speak/could have spoken/can speak)


  1. May return
  2. Might give a lift
  3. Should
  4. Should have warned
  5. Must
  6. Must not have left
  7. Cannot lend
  8. Could speak

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