What Are Modal Auxiliary Verbs?

Modal auxiliary verbs are special kinds of helping verbs used to show a willingness, necessity, capability, or possibility. There is only one form of these verbs. Auxiliary verb forms generally do not change to indicate whether the sentence’s subject is singular or plural. With all modal auxiliaries, the first form of the main verb is used in the active voice. Some of these verbs indicate whether something happened in the present, the past, or the future. These verbs are full of possibilities! The possibility is just one thing modal auxiliary verbs can show;

Uses and Examples of Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Now you have understood the purpose of modal auxiliary verbs. Take a look at uses and examples of some common modal auxiliaries. The modal auxiliary verbs include:

Can (in terms of capacity)-In present tense-

Example:

I can do this work.

Can you solve this question?

Could: (in terms of capacity) –in the past tense-

Example:

Nobody could beat Arjun in the battle of Mahabharat.

May: (in terms of permission, possibility) in the present tense-

Examples:

May I come in, sir?

It may rain today.

Might (In terms of permission, possibility) in the past tense

Examples:

The student asked the teacher respectfully if he might come in.

Should: (In terms of …( Chahiye in Hindi)  

You should take care of your health.

Must: (In terms of …(Avashya Chahiye in Hindi)

Example: You must help your friend.

Ought to: (In terms of morality, dutifulness… Chahiye in Hindi)

Example: You ought to serve your old parents.

Shall: In future indefinite tense)

Example: We shall learn English today.

Should: in the past form of shall:

Example: Yesterday you told me that you would go to Delhi.

Will: In future tense:

Example: He will help you.

Would: Past form of will

Example: He said that he would go to school the next day.

Need: (Avashyakta in Hindi)

Example: You need not worry.

Dare: (Shahas Karna in Hindi)

Example: How dare you say that?

Has to/Have to: (In terms of obligation ….Padta hai, padti hai, padte hain..in  Hindi)

Example: He himself has to wash his clothes.

They have to go to school on foot.

Had to (In terms of obligation ….Padta tha, padti thi, padte the..in  Hindi)

Example: He had to return to his town yesterday.

Exercise: Fill in the blanks with the most appropriate modal auxiliary.

Q1.         I didn’t feel very well yesterday. I ….. eat anything.

                cannot

                couldn’t

                mustn’t

Q2.         You ….. look at me when I am talking to you.

                Could

              should

                would

Q3.         I was using my pencil a minute ago. It ….. be here somewhere!

                can

                could

                must

                would

Q4.         You really ….. be late again.

                must not

                don’t have to be

Q5.         If you don’t start working harder, you ….. repeat the course next year.

                have to

                must

                will have to

Q6.         His parents spoil him. He’s always ….. to do whatever he wants.

                been able

                been allowed

Q7.         Phone her now. She ….. at home by now.

                has to be

                must be

                would be

Q8.         You ….. forget your sun cream. It’s going to be very hot!

                don’t have to

                mustn’t

                needn’t

Q9.         I ….. be able to help you, but I’m not sure yet.

                might

                would

Q10.       The Entrance to the museum was free. We ….. pay to get in.

                needn’t

                didn’t need to

Q11.       Already as a child, Mozart ….. play the piano beautifully.

                could

                should

                would

Q12.       Which sign are you more likely to see at an airport: Bags ….. not be left unattended.

                can

                must

                may

Q13.       I really ….. try to get fit.

                may

                must

                would

Q14.       ….. take a photograph of you?

                Am I allowed to

                May I

Q15.       Students ….. borrow up to 6 books at any time.

                are allowed to

                could

Q16.       Whose is this bag? – I don’t know, but it ….. belong to Yuta.

                could

                may

                should

                would

Q17.       ….. I go to the bathroom, please?

                May

                Must

                Would

Q18.       His excuse ….. be true, but I don’t believe.

                can

                may

Q19.       It’s very important to ….. speak more than one language.

                can

                be able to

Q20.       I don’t like ….. get up early on a Sunday.

                being able to

                being allowed to

                having to

Q21.       ….. you speak French? – Only a few words, but my Russian is pretty good.

                Can

                Could

Q22.       ….. you help me move this table? (Both answers are possible. Choose the more polite request.)

                Can

                Could

Q23.       I ….. talk already before I was two years old.

                could

                should

                would

Q24.       I ….. help you, but I don’t want to.

                can

                could

                would

Q25.       ….. you open the window, please.

                Can

                May

Q26.       I ….. move the table. It was too heavy.

                couldn’t

                mustn’t

                shouldn’t

                wouldn’t

Q27.       You ….. not put your feet on the cafeteria tables.

                must not

                do not have to

Q28.       If you continue to practise so hard, you ….. beat me before too long!

                can

                could

                will be able to

Q29.       ….. you swim? (Both are possible. Which is better?)

                Are you able to

                Can

Q30.       You ….. eat so much chocolate. It’s not good for you.

                don’t have to

                mustn’t

                shouldn’t

Q31.       I’m afraid I ….. play tennis tomorrow. I’ve got a dentist’s appointment.

                can’t

                couldn’t

                would not be able to

Q32.       You can come to the meeting if you want but you ……

                have to

                don’t have to

                mustn’t

Q33.       What do you want to do? – Well, we ….. have a picnic, but it looks like rain.

                can

                could

                should

                would

Q34.       I’m so hungry I ….. eat a horse!

                can

                could

                must

                should

Q35.       The test starts at 10.30. You ….. be late.

                don’t have to

                mustn’t

Q36.       Why didn’t you tell me? I ….. you!

                could help

                could have helped

                was able to help

                would help

Q37.       How did you do in the test? – Ok. It ….. worse!

                could be

                could have been

                might be

                would have been

Q38.       He ….. broken the classroom window. He wasn’t even in school today.

                couldn’t have

                mustn’t

                shouldn’t have

Q39.       You ….. tired. You’ve only just got out of bed!

                don’t have to be

                can’t be

                mustn’t be

Q40.       She ….. be very pleased with herself. She got the best grades.

                has to

                must

                cannot

Answers of the Exercise:

  1. Couldn’t
  2. Should
  3. Must
  4. Must not
  5. Will have to
  6. Been allowed
  7. Must be
  8. Mustn’t
  9. Might
  10. Didn’t need to
  11. Could
  12. Must
  13. Must
  14. May I
  15. Are allowed
  16. May
  17. May
  18. May
  19. Be able to
  20. Having to
  21. Can
  22. Could
  23. Could
  24. Could
  25. Can
  26. Couldn’t
  27. Must not
  28. Will be able to
  29. Can
  30. Shouldn’t
  31. Can’t
  32. Don’t have to
  33. Could
  34. Could
  35. Mustn’t
  36. Could have helped
  37. Could have been
  38. Couldn’t have
  39. Can’t be
  40. Must