Modal Verbs

Click here for all the exercises about modal verbs

Here's a list of the modal verbs in English:

wouldmustshallshouldought to

Modals are different from normal verbs:

1: They don't use an 's' for the third person singular.
2: They make questions by inversion ('she can go' becomes 'can she go?').
3: They are followed directly by the infinitive of another verb (without 'to').


First, they can be used when we want to say how sure we are that something happened / is happening / will happen. We often call these 'modals of deduction' or 'speculation' or 'certainty' or 'probability'.

For example:

Click here to find out more about probability.


We use 'can' and 'could' to talk about a skill or ability.

For example: Click here to find out more about ability.

Obligation and Advice

We can use verbs such as 'must' or 'should' to say when something is necessary or unnecessary, or to give advice.

For example: Click here to find out more about obligation


We can use verbs such as 'can', 'could' and 'may' to ask for and give permission. We also use modal verbs to say something is not allowed.

For example:


We can use 'will' and 'would' to talk about habits or things we usually do, or did in the past.

For example:

Past modals

The past modals 'could have + past participle', 'should have + past participle' and 'would have + past participle' can be confusing. I explain about them here.
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'A' and 'The' Explained