Modal verbs are special verbs which behave very differently from normal verbs. Here are some important differences:

1. Modal verbs do not take “-s” in the third person.


  • He can  speak Chinese.
  • She should  be here by 9:00.

2. You use “not” to make modal verbs negative, even in Simple Present and Simple Past.


  • He should not be late.
  • They might not come to the party.

3. Many modal verbs cannot be used in the past tenses or the future tenses.


  • He will can go with us. Not Correct
  • She musted study very hard. Not Correct

Kinds of modals and their use in English sentences:

1. CAN AbilityPermission I can do the test.All students can enter the room
2. COULD Past abilityPolite questions We could be in love.Could I have your name?
3. MAY PermissionPossibility May I enter the room?They may be late. They may have been here yesterday.
4. MIGHT possibility She might come tonight
5. SHOULD/OUGHT TO Advisabilityexpectation You should study hard.My mother should pick me up soon.
6. HAD BETTER Strong advisability You had better be on time or we will go without you.
7. MUST Necessityconclusion I must go now.She is not here, she must be absent today.
8. HAVE TO necessity I have to see him.
9. HAVE GOT TO necessity I have got to go
10 WILL Simple futurePolite request I will study English tonight.Will you close your book?
11 WOULD Polite requestPreference


Would you mind opening the door?I would rather to go by car.

If I found money, I would keep it.

12 SHALL Simple future(I and we)Polite questions (suggestion) I shall arrive there tomorrow.Shall I make you a cup of tea?

‘Should‘ (do) is used to say what we think is a good thing to do or the right thing to do (to give opinion about something). We often use should when we ask for or give an opinion about something.

For example:

  • I don’t think you should work so hard.
  • The government should do something about the economy.
  • You’ve been coughing a lot. You shouldn’t smoke so much.

‘Should’ is also to say something is not right or not we expect.

For example:

  • Those children shouldn’t be playing. They should be at school.

For the past, we use ‘should have’ (done) to say that someone did the wrong thing:

For example:

  • She’s feeling sick. She shouldn’t have eaten so much chocolate.
  • Why were you at home yesterday? You should have been at school.
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