Modal verbs, also called modal auxiliaries or simply modals, are a type of auxiliary verb or helping verb. English has ten modal verbs. 

can    could    may    might   shall           should   will   would   must    ought to 


Modals express the mood a verb , such as ability, possibility, necessity, or another condition. They are used with a main verb to form a sentence or a question. Modals are not conjugated, have no tense, and cannot be used without a main verb.



When used with modal verbs (except ought), main verbs always remain in the infinitive without to.
In a statement the word order is subject + modal + main verb.

subjectmodalmain verb
Theycancome.
Mikeshouldwalk
In questions, the word order changes to modal + subject + main verb.
yes-no questions
modalsubjectmain verb
Cantheycome?
ShouldMikedrive?
wh- questions
wh- wordmodalsubjectmain verb
Whencantheycome?
Howcouldheknow?

A list of modals
Here is a list of modals:

Modal Verb
Meaning
Expressing
Example
must
to have to
100 % obligation
I must stop when the traffic lights turn red.
to be very probable
logical conclusion (deduction)
He must be very tired after such enormous work
must not
not to be allowed to
prohibition
You must not smoke in the hospital.
can
to be able to
ability
I can swim
to be allowed to
permission
Can I use your phone please?
it is possible
possibility
Smoking can cause cancer !
could
to be able to
ability in the past
When I was younger I could stay up all night and not get tired..
to be allowed to
more polite permission
Excuse me, could I just say something?
it is possible
possibility
It could rain tomorrow!
may
to be allowed to
permission
May I use your phone please?
it is possible, probable
possibility, probability
It may rain tomorrow!
might
to be allowed to
more polite permission
Might I use your phone please?
it is possible, probable
weak possibility, probability
I might come and visit you in America next year, if I can save enough money.
need
necessary
necessity
Need I say more?
need not
not necessary
lack of necessity/absence of obligation
I need not buy any tomatoes. There are plenty in the fridge.
should/ought to
used to say or ask what is the correct or best thing to do
50 % obligation
I should / ought to see a doctor. I have a terrible headache.
to suggest an action or to show that it is necessary
advice
You should / ought to revise your lessons
to be very probable
logical conclusion (deduction)
He should / ought to be very tired after such enormous work
had better
to suggest an action or to show that it is necessary
advice
You 'd better revise your lessons





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