In English grammar, modals are auxiliary verbs that express necessity, permission, ability, possibility, and other related types of ideas and attitudes. Some common modals include 'can', 'could', 'may', 'might', 'will', 'would', 'should', 'shall', 'must', and 'ought to'. This tutorial will delve into the importance, characteristics, and usage of these crucial grammar components in English language.

Characteristics of Modals

Modals possess specific features that set them apart from conventional verbs. Understanding these characteristics can help immensely in effectively utilizing modals. Here are the key features:

  1. Modals don't change their form, meaning there are no 's' endings or past tense endings.
  2. After a modal, we use the base form of the verb. For instance, "I can swim" instead of "I can to swim".
  3. Modals can't be used on their own. They're often accompanied by the main verb.
  4. There is no need for an auxiliary verb to formulate questions or negations. For instance, "Should I go?" or "I should not go."
  5. The verb 'to be' is often dropped in passive structures using modals. For example, "This must done immediately."

Types of Modals and their Usage

Let's view the different types of modals and their respective uses:

  1. Can: This modal verb is used to express ability (as in, "I can swim.") and permission (as in, "Can I play?")
  2. Could: This modal verb is employed to express past ability (e.g., "I could swim when I was young."), polite requests (e.g., "Could you please move?") or possibilities (e.g., "This could work.")
  3. May: 'May' is used to ask for permission (example, "May I borrow this book?") and to denote possibility (for instance, "She may come tomorrow.")
  4. Might: 'Might' is used to suggest a slight possibility (example, "It might rain today.") or a suggestion (e.g., "You might try calling her.")
  5. Should: This modal is employed to give advice (such as, "You should eat more fruits.") or express obligations or expectations (for instance, "I should be home by 7pm.")
  6. Must: 'Must' is used to lay emphasis on compulsion or necessity (example, "Soldiers must obey orders.") or logical deduction (as in, "She must be over 40.")
  7. Will: This modal verb is commonly used to talk about the future (e.g., "We will go to the beach tomorrow.") or to make promises and offers (e.g., "I will help you.")
  8. Would: 'Would' is a past tense of 'will' and is used to talk about hypothetical situations (as in, "I would travel the world.") or polite offers and requests (for instance, "Would you like some tea?")
  9. Shall: 'Shall' is employed in some dialects of English to talk about the future (example, "We shall see.") or to make suggestions or offers (e.g., "Shall we dance?")

Rules and Tips about Modals Usage

  1. Avoid using two modals consecutively. Instead, use a modal followed by the base form of the verb.
  2. Ensure that a modal verb always accompanies a main verb. For instance, "You must practice."
  3. Remember, 'can' refers to ability while 'could' can be used to indicate a past ability.
  4. Carefully choose the correct modal to set the tone in your sentence. 'Will' and 'would' are often used to give a softer and polite tone.
  5. Understand the level of certainty that each modal imparts. For example, 'must' denotes a high level of certainty, while 'might' signifies low certainty.

These are fundamental aspects of understanding and using modals in English. Practice using each modal correctly in making requests, giving advice, or expressing necessity, permission, and probability to enhance your natural fluency. Remember that native speakers often use these modals in their conversations. To become proficient in English, it is crucial to master modals.


Mastering modals will grant your English a mark of fluidity and depth, commonly associated with native speakers. They facilitate conveying different attitudes, moods, or perceptions regarding a particular action. As we conclude this modal tutorial, keep in mind that although modals' rules might seem overwhelming initially, consistent practice and usage will make them second nature in no time. Happy learning!

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