In previous lesson, you have learnt that the verbs that help the main verb to complete the meaning of a sentences are called the Auxiliary Verbs or simply Auxiliaries.
Auxiliaries are two types:
1. Primary Auxiliaries:
is, am, are, was, were, do, does, did, has, have, had, been,being.
2. Modal Auxiliaries: can,could, will , would, shall, should, may, might, ought to,
used to, need, dare, must.


Modal Auxiliaries are simply modals are verbs that are used to express the mood of speaker. The following list shows some moods expressed by the modals.
Modals Used
MoodsModals Used
1. Ability/capacity can could
2. Certaintywill (with first person) shall (with second/third person)
3. Possibilitymay, could, might
4. Probabilitymight, ought to
5. Instructionsmust, ought to
6. Permissionmay, can could
7. Requestcould, will
8. Suggestion
may ,might, shall
9. Invitationwould
10. Wishcould, might
11. Needneed to


Modals show no agreement with the subject of the sentence, i.e they do not change with the change of person or number of the subject.
For example;
He can solve tough questions.    (He singular, masculine)
They can solve tough questions.  (They plural, masculine)
This girl can leave now for her home.  (Girl Singular, feminine)
These girls can leave now for their home. (Girl Plural, feminine)

Usage of Modals

Let’s study the usage of some modals in detail now.
1. Can, Could
  • Can is the modal of Present Tense. It expresses:

1. Ability/capacity of the speaker. For example;

He is very strong, He Can lift heavy weights and even run with them.

2. Permission seeking and giving. For example; (a) He to his friend, “Can you give me your pen?”

Could is the model of Past Tense. Expresses:
1. Capacity ability of the speaker. For example;
He could run very fast as a young boy.
2. Informal permission. For example;
(a) I asked my mother if I could go out to play.
Could expresses a polite request if it is used in present tense. For example;
(a) Could you please pass on the salt?

2. May, Might

May is the modal of present tense. It expresses:
Possibility. For example;
(a) It is raining heavily. He may get late.
2. Formal permission. For example;
(a) I said to my boss. “Sir, may take leave tomorrow?”
3. A wish or a blessing. For example;
The beggar said. “May the king live long!”
Might is a model of past. It Expresses:
1. Possibility in past. For example;
She said that she might visit London next month only.
2. Formal permission giving and seeking) in the past.
For example;
(a) I asked my boss if I might take week off.
3. A Wish or a blessing in the past.
For example;
The beggar wished that the king might live long.
4. Might shows a dissatisfactory condition, if used in present tense.
For example;
The teacher told Aman that he might do something about his arrogance.
5. In present tense, Might shows weak possibility also.
The sky is only a little cloudy. It might rain.

Shall, Will

  • For First person (I, we), shall shows pure future i.e. simply an information about whatis going to happen in future.

For example;

(a) I shall go tomorrow.
(b) We shall reach Shimla on Monday.
  • For Second person (you) and third person (name, he, she, it, they), shall shows a sense of command, order, request, warning, threat or promise.

For example;

(a) The king said. “The prisoner shall be punished.”
  • For Second person (you) and third person (he, she, it, they, name), will shows pure future, i.e. simply an information. For example;

(a) On Sunday, he will attend his yoga class.

  • For First person (I, we), will shows a sense of determination, promise, threat, order etc. For example;

(a) I will win this race, no one can stop me. (determination)

(b) We will give him promotion if he proves his merit. (promise)

  • Will also expresses a request in the form of a question. For example;

Will You inform Mr. Gupta to contact me at the earliest?

4. Would, Should

• Would is a modal of past tense. It also expresses a past tense.
For example;
As a child he would often make stunning mischiefs.
  • Would is used with words ‘like to’. if used in present tense.

For example;

I would like to have a little tea now.
• In present tense, would also shows a polite request. For example;
Would you please tell me the time?
  • Should shows an obligation, a sense of duty or an advice. For example;
(a) We should obey the elders.
(b) He should behave properly.
  • Should is used with ‘like to’ but only for first person. For example;
I should like to tell you the truth.
  • Should is used as inversion in conditional sentences. For example;
If the pain returns what will he do?
Should the pain return what will he do?

5. Must, Ought to, Used to

  • Must shows strong obligation, compulsion, warning or advice. For example;

(a) We must serve the nation. (strong sense of duty)

(b) We must take him to the doctor immediately as he is bleeding. (urgency)
(c) You mustn’t do that ever again. (strict warning)
(d) You must attempt all that ever again. (compulsion)
Ought to also shows obligation. For example;
We ought to help the poor people.
  • Ought to also shows an assumption based on evidence.For example;
She is a fast runner. She ought to win this race.
Used to expresses both a past habit and a habit in present. For example;
(a) I used to be quite quarrelsome as a young boy. (A Past habit)
(b) He is used to having tea in the morning. (A habit in the present)

6. Need, Dare

  • Need and Dare are the only two modals that are used both as modals and main verbs.
Asa modal, need is used to show necessity and dare shows courage. For example;
(a) I needn’t switch on the cooler. The room is not hot.


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