As intermediate and advanced level speakers, deeper expression is one of the key elements that ranks you in that level of comprehension. To create sentences with more depth, sometimes your verbs require a little help. That’s where modal verbs fit into English grammar. You may have a basic understanding of these verbs, so in this article, we’ll review and go deeper into their function and usage.
What are Modal Verbs?
Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that give sentences deeper and more well-rounded meanings.
Modal verbs include words like: can, may, must, should, would, could, might, will, and shall.
Their purpose is to provide additional information that enhances or helps another verb. In fact, they change the meaning of a sentence. Look at the sentences below to see what we mean.
The sentence states that Joe is playing tonight.
However, if you add the modal verb can to the sentence, it implies only that Joe has the ability to play tonight. Whether he will or will not play is not answered.
Can changes the function of the verb play, and that’s actually the function of a modal verb. We’ll explore the various expressive functions of modal verbs in the next section.
First, let’s review how modal verbs behave differently from normal verbs.
3 Key Differences Between Regular and Modal Verbs
1. Modal verbs never change form and have no infinitive or participle. Do not add -s, -ing, or -ed to a modal verb.
2. Add “not” to make a modal verb negative in any tense.
3. Modal verbs are an auxiliary verb and therefore do not require an additional auxiliary in the negative or question form.
Expressive Forms of Modals
The function of a modal verb is to change the expression of a verb. This comes in many variations in English, so let’s break down some of those variations.
*Be able to is a modal phrase used to express both permission or ability (more on this below).*
*Had better and ought to are more examples of modal phrases.*
*Though not technically correct, in casual speech you will also hear could and can used in a request.
Lack of Necessity
That’s ten common variations of modal verb usage. Can you think of any more? Leave a comment below if anything comes to mind.
Modal verbs are used in a variety of ways and in different tenses. Be sure to practice using them in different situations and try some online exercises to reinforce what you’ve learned.
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