Whether modals, modal verbs, modal auxiliaries or modal auxiliary verbs, they are all the same. The modal verbs and the primary verbs (be, do and have) are called auxiliary verbs. The difference between these two groups of verbs is that we can use modal verbs as auxiliary verbs only. In other words, we cannot use modal verbs on their own, as they are not complete by themselves. We have to use them with other verbs, which must be in the simple present tense.

There is a good number of modal auxiliary verbs: can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must, ought to, used to, had better, need, dare.


Modal verbs do not change their forms when used with other verbs such as to show number. They have no –s form for the third person singular, no –ing form or past participle form.

Example: I can go. She can go. They can go.


Modal verbs always come before the other verbs. We use them to express possibility, ability, necessity, permission, intention, obligation, wishes, etc., and each of them can express more than one of these ideas. The following are modal verbs:


We can make negative statements by placing the negative word not after the modal auxiliary verbs.