Modal verbs in English are one of the verb groups. Their main feature is the modal meaning, that is, the expression of desires, intentions to do some kind of action or necessity. Some modal verbs are also included in the auxiliary group.

Rules of application

The formation of such a group of verbs is ensured by the need to express a certain area of ​​states: readiness for action, probability, possibility, duty, the ability to accomplish something, confidence in something. In addition, the modal verbs in the English language express obligations (ie, duty), the desire for something, as well as permission to do something.modal verbs in English


Modal verbs are not called so in vain. The concept of modality implies the attitude of the speaker to the subject. In fact, with the help of modal verbs, the speaker can express his own assessment of the action: he may consider it possible or impossible, necessary or completely unnecessary, forbidden or allowed, unlikely or quite likely,valid or invalid. He may also consider action by order or request. As a rule, the study of such verbs is actually included in the third or fourth lesson of the English language. Modal verbs are very often used in everyday speech, so you should pay special attention to them.modal verbs in english translation examples

Examples of existing verbs

The modal verbs group includes 11 verbs.



Present or future tense

Past tense


To be able to be able to perform an action



May or might

Is it possible

May or might

may or might


Lee would






Had to

have to


have to

Had to


Should, should



ought to

Should, should

ought to

ought to

Be able to

To be capable of

Am / is / are able to

Was / were able to


Necessary, necessary




- (obsolete word)







Important note: English grammar does not allow modal verbs to be used independently. They can be used exclusively with the infinitive semantic verb.

Verb Formation

Modal verbs are a special group (translated from English as “defective”). Not all verbs can be declined in a variety of types of tenses. For example, the verb can can be used in the formation of past and present tensebut to express actions in the future it can not be used. Similarly, with the verb may - it can not be put down in the future tense. However, this does not mean that modal verbs in English cannot be used in future forms of temporary forms. For the expression of skills and capabilities in the future tense, the verb will (or its outdated form shall) is used.english modal verbs table

The use of this group of verbs also has its good sides. Virtually none of the verbs (except for to) is changed by faces and numbers. That is, in the present tense in the third person, no endings can be added to the verbs.

Almost all modal verbs in English do not require the particle to be affixed before the infinitive, however there are exceptions: have to and ought to. Only after these two verbs should always be put down the particle to.english modal verbs exercise

The use of verbs in different types of sentences

In the affirmative type of the sentence, the modal verb after the noun and before the semantic verb should be used. To form a negative type, it is necessary to insert a not / n’t fragment after the modal verb (except for the have to verb). In order to form a question, it is necessary to change the order of the noun and modal verb.However, no auxiliary verb should be used, since the modal verb takes its place.

Modal verbs in English: examples of common use

He can wright - He can write.

She will study there - She will study there.

I must do it - I have to do it.

He ought to go to the school. - He should go to school.

You don’t have to use a mobile phone during the lessons - You must not use the phone during the lessons.

I would like to go to the cinema.

Would you like a coffee? - Would you like some coffee?

You should stay home. “You should stay home.”

She ought not to play the computer so much. “She shouldn't play so much on the computer.”

She can swim - She can swim.

She can’t swim. - She can't swim.

I can run very quickly - I can run very fast.

She can´t run very quickly - She cannot run very fast.

Can she run very quickly? - She can run very fast.


Quite often in colloquial speech, native speakers prefer to abbreviate a number of verbs. No exception and English. The modal verbs (table in the article) below can be used both in full and in abbreviated form.

Full form


Should not


can not


could not


may not


might not


must not


need not


ought not




shall not




will not




would not


Verb featurescan

This verb is used to express the ability (inability) or the ability (impossibility) to accomplish something.In Russian, this verb translates as "I can" or "I can." In addition, this verb is used to express states of doubt or surprise regarding the commission of any action. For example:

My girlfriend canspeak Spanish - My girlfriend can (can) speak Spanish (expressions of ability).

That child can’t swim - That child cannot (can not) swim (an expression of ability).

He can’t see you - He can’t remember you, because he didn’t see you (an expression of doubt).

The modal verb could have an absolutely identical meaning with the verb can, but it is used to express the past tense. For example:

Jon could dance very well - John knew how to dance very well.

I couldn’t receive driving license 2 years ago - I could not get a driver's license 2 years ago.English lesson modal verbs

Separate features of modal verbs consider the rules of the English language. Modal verbs, for example, can have alternative forms. For the verb can, the alternative is the verb to be able to. This form can be used as a synonym for the verb can, and can also be used to express the ability (ability) to perform an action in the future, unlike can (which is not used in the future).

For example, in order to translate in English "I will be able to win the competition next year," you can’t say "I will win win in the next year", as this would be a blunder. But you can say "I will be able to win in the next year."

Sometimes it is quite difficult to translate modal verbs into English. Exercises and learning the rules are the only way to learn how to properly apply a variety of verbs in appropriate situations.

Verb featuresmay andmight

These forms can only be used in real time. In the past and in the future, they are not used. They are used to demonstrate resolution and speculation. Translated into Russian, they sound like "I can", "can", "can". For example:

You can smoke in this room - You can smoke in this room.

Elizabeth may know something about that night - Elizabeth may know something about that night.

It may windy today - Today, it may be windy.

My parents might come to my home today - Maybe my parents will come to my home today.

Jennifer might go to the concert tonight - Jennifer might be coming to the concert tonight.

In addition, the verb might is used in conditional sentences (type number 2). In such a situation, the verb in Russian will sound "could", "maybe". For example:

If he had a dog, he could go for a walk twice a day.rules of english modal verbs

Just like the verb can, for the verb may there is an alternative form that can be used in past tense sentences.In order to express permission, the combination to be allowed is used (translated into Russian to be allowed, permitted). It can also be used in present and future forms of temporary forms. Example:

Gabriel was allowed to come back earlier.

- Nina will be allowed to take her child home tomorrow.

Features of the verb should

The only case in which a given verb can be used today is an expression of advice or duty from a moral point of view. A feature of this verb is its origin. It is derived from the verb shall, forming a past form.

You should drink aspirin if you feel head pain - you should drink aspirin if you have a headache.

Auxiliary and modal verbs

Some modal forms are at the same time auxiliary verbs. They are necessary in order to form various forms of temporary forms. However, they do not have their own translation. They simply form a variety of grammatical meanings and are markers of time, number, or face. Facing one of these verbs, it is necessary to understand what meaning they have in this context.After all, they can either be used to express desires, intentions, the need to do something, or simply to help form this or that form. These include the verbs to have (have), to do, will (would), shall (should). For example:

Have you ever been in Spane? - Have you ever been to Spain (the verb has absolutely no modal meaning, it is used to form a perfect present tense).

She arrived when the film had already started - She arrived when the film had already begun (the verb carries absolutely no modal meaning, it is used to form a perfect past tense).

I have two older brothers and three older sisters (in this case, the verb is neither modal nor auxiliary, it simply conveys its direct meaning).

Lessons will start at 8 a.m. - The lesson will begin tomorrow at 8 am (the verb has no modal meaning, it is used as an auxiliary verb, which forms the future tense form).

If she finishes her homework, they will go to the cafe - if she finishes her homework, they will go to the cafe (the verb is auxiliary and forms the first form of a conditional sentence).English grammar modal verbs

Modal verbs in English: examples with translation

You must come at the university at 8 o'clock.

She's not ill - my sister shouldn't smoke now because she had a cold.

Nicki shouldn’t do like this - Niki shouldn’t do that.

I can play the piano but I can’t swim - I can play the piano, but I can not swim.

She is 13 years old - My sister cannot go to Italy herself because she is only 13 years old.

I will go with my boyfriend to the USA next year.

My girlfriend would like to get a gold ring for her next birthday.

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