Every day of our lives we are confronted with decisions to be made. Our ability is questioned. Requests will be made. Permissions will be granted. We are flooded with unwanted suggestions or advice. We look at possibilities and probabilities. We offer to help people. We make predictions and we make promises and we make deductions. Sometimes we make recommendations and other times we ask questions. Sometimes we make our intentions clear and other times we look at the future. We send out invitations. We give our preferences. We also set conditions. How does the English language handle all these situations?
We have learnt the eight parts of speech, of which verbs are one. The basic type of verb is the main verb, but sometimes they alone cannot express all situations. In order to describe a variety of situations the English language makes use of helping verbs which are known as modal verbs or modals.
Since they are helping verbs, modals are always used with main verbs. There are 9 modals in all and these are: CAN, COULD, MAY, MIGHT, MUST, SHALL, SHOULD, WILL and WOULD. These are known as pure modals. Since there are only nine pure modals and in our lives we come across more than nine kinds of situations, each of the modals can be used to describe more than one situation. Looked at another way it is possible for a situation to be expressed by different modal verbs. For instance:
Learning to use modals can be rewarding to one who wants to be understood clearly. Take this quiz and see how much you know about modal verbs.