Learn about modal verbs and how they are used to describe the chance of something happening.

 

Modal Verbs

  

most verbs describe things that are

actually happening

pirate

Patch sat in the boat with his

parrot.

◊ what Patch is doing

modal verbs describe the chances

of something happening

pirate

Patch might teach his parrot

some new songs.

◊ what Patch might do

 

 

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modal verbs do not tell us about actual actions

they tell us about the chances of an action happening

 

pirate

Patch will feed his parrot some peanuts.

will is a modal verb that tells us there is a very good chance that Patch will feed his parrot some peanuts

 

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the word modal means mood

modal verbs express the mood of the speaker of the sentence

aliens

modal verbs tell us how the speaker of the sentence feels about the chances of them doing an action

♦ The aliens said they must go on the big wheel.

 

the modal verb must indicates that the aliens feel that the chances of them going on the big wheel are high

 

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modal verbs tell us how certain someone

feels about the chances of them doing something

ice-skating

 

Ava might skate. | means | Ava feels there is a possibility she will skate

Ava should skate. | means | Ava feels there is a probability she will skate

Ava will skate. | means | Ava feels there is a certainty she will skate

 

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modal verbs show the chances of something happening

◊ these are less certain modal verbs these verbs show possibility

might | could | may

◊ this is a more certain modal verb this verb shows probability

should

◊ these are the most certain modal verbs these verbs show certainty

must | will | would | shall

 

 

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winter-scene

Mica is not sure she will do this

less certain modal verb - Mica might take the dog for a walk.

 

more certain modal verb - Mica should take the dog for a walk.

 

most certain modal verb - Mica will take the dog for a walk.

Mica is sure she will do this

 

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 less certain modals 

less certain modals show possibilities

possibilities are not certain to happen

might, could and may are less certain modals

the-woods

the hikers are not certain that they are going to do any of these actions

 

♦ The hikers might stop for a rest soon.

 

♦ They could eat lunch when they stop.

 

♦ They may walk further this afternoon.

 

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 more certain modal 

should is a more certain modal

runners

should shows something is very likely to happen but not 100% certain to happen

♦ Pria should win the race.

the modal verb should tells us that Pria feels there is a strong probability she will win the race

 

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 most certain modals 

must, will, would and shall are the most certain modals

Tom must fix his bike.

 

broken-bike

Tom will fix his bike.

 

broken-bike

these modal verbs tell us that Tom feels certain he will fix his bike

 

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modal verbs express what the speaker of the sentence

believes will happen or wants to happen

making-a-sand-castle

♦ They must finish the sandcastle before the tide comes in.

modal verb | main verb

 

the modal verb must tells us that the children feel

certain that they will finish the sandcastle

 

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modal verbs are always used with a main verb

most modal verbs are used with the base form of a main verb

man-in-office

♦ Stanley must finish his homework.

 

the infinitive form of the main verb finish is - to finish

the base form of to finish is - finish

 

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modal verbs have no person and no tense so they never change

girl-football-team

 

modal verbs express the attitude of the speaker to what is being said

 

Evie might score a goal today. | she is 50% certain | possibility

 

The team should win the match. | they are 75% certain | probability

 

They will celebrate if they win. | they are 100% certain | certainty

 

the modals verbs in the sentences above are all used with the base form of the main verb the modal has stayed the same regardless of the number of persons in the sentence

 

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there are other modal verbs called semi-modals that can

behave in a similar way to modals - these are

ought to | used to | need | dare

climbers

ought to

ought to is not as forceful as must, but it is stronger than should

 

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modal verbs are used to show degrees of certainty

adverbs can also be used to do this

 

 less certain adverbs 

possibly | perhaps | maybe

◊ these adverbs indicate possibility

 

 more certain adverb 

probably

◊ this adverb indicates probability

 

 most certain adverbs 

certainly | definitely | always | never

◊ these adverbs indicate certainty

 

 

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modal verbs are verbs that tell us how certain something is

superhero

♦ Rory will go to the fancy dress party tonight.

(Rory is certain he will go)

 

adverbs can be used with modal verbs to increase the level of certainty

superhero

♦ Rory will definitely go to the fancy dress party tonight.

 

the adverb definitely increases the level of Rory's certainty

 

 

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adverbs that are used with modal verbs are called modal adverbs

they can increase or decrease the level of certainty

 

Pablo will definitely

finish the painting today.

 

penguin-painting

the adverb definitely increases the level of certainty

Pablo will probably

finish the painting today.

 

penguin-painting

the adverb probably decreases the level of certainty

 

 

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summary of which modal verbs are used with which modal adverbs

modal-adverb-table

 

 

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modal verbs can also be used to ask questions

 

girl-surfer

 

Should she be on the top of that wave?

 

Will she win the surfing competition?

 

Would it take a long time to become that good?

 

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we often use the contracted form of modal verbs

rollercoster

They will go on the ride again.

rollercoster

They'll go on the ride again.

 

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these are the contracted forms

of the nine key modal verbs

contracted-form-of-9-key-modal-verbs

 

 

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modal verbs can also be used to write negative sentences

dog-biting-man

♦ The dog should not (or shouldn't) bite people.

♦ The dog must not (or mustn't) be so badly behaved.

 

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one modal verb that we use in a slightly

different way is the modal verb can

mountain-climbing

the modal verb can is used to show abilities or opportunities

♦ The children can climb mountains.

♦ The children can stop for a drink before they climb down.

♦ The children can become great mountain climbers if they practice more.

 

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the modal verb can is used to show

 

what we can

robot-carrying-boxes

♦ The robots can lift heavy parcels.

this is an ability that the robots do have

or cannot do

robot-carrying-boxes

♦ They cannot drive the van.

this is an ability that the robots do not have

 

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we often use the contracted form of modal verbs

man-in-office

♦ Harry cannot finish his homework.

♦ Harry can't finish his homework.

 

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the modal verb can is also used to ask questions

man-in-office

 

Can Harry finish his homework and still watch TV?

Can Harry get good marks if he rushes his homework?

 

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