modal auxiliary verbs

Modal Auxiliary Verbs


Auxiliary Verbs


be, do, have;
can, could, may, might, must,
ought to, shall, should, will, would

Auxiliary verbs are helping verbs. They help form the tenses, moods, voices of other verbs.

In sentences, auxiliary verbs generally come before a main verb.

Auxiliary Verbs in Sentences

Subject + auxiliary verb + main verb.

• I am reading a book on weight loss.
• You have passed the exam.
• The campers were stung by hornets.
• She will fly to Caracas tomorrow.
• They don’t listen.
• We must stop and rest.


Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Modal auxiliary verbs are a group of auxiliary verbs that modify the main verb it accompanies. They include the following:

can, could, may, might, must,
ought to, shall, should, will, would

The usual form of sentences with modal auxiliary verbs is

Subject + modal auxiliary verb + verb-1 (base form).


Examples of Modal and Modal-like Verbs

A. Ability
Can I can lift a bowling ball.
B. Obligation
Must (strong) You must put away your toys.
Have to (strong) He has to go to court on the 14th.
Had better (severe) You had better apologize to them.
C. Lack of Obligation
Don’t have to She doesn’t have to work on Saturdays.
D. Permission
May May I go to the disco?
Yes, you may (go to the disco).
Can Customers can get a full refund.
E. Prohibition
Mustn’t (strong) You mustn’t feed the animals
Can’t (rule) You can’t turn left here.
May not (rule) Employees may not leave until 5:00.
Had better not (severe) They had better not miss the boat.
F. Advice
Should He should write a book on bonsais.
Ought to I ought to be going home now.
Shouldn’t You shouldn’t associate with them.
G. Probability
Must He must have a rich uncle.
Could, May, Might She could be a new professor.
Can’t, Couldn’t That can’t be Hal; Hal’s blonder.
H. Prediction
Will They will forget us by tomorrow.
Won’t The boss won’t change his mind.
May, Might Take an umbrella; it might rain.
May/Might not He may not ask about your education.

Dual Purposes

The verbs be, do, and have serve a double function.

1. They function as auxiliary verbs:

• We’re busy right now; we are gathering wild mushrooms. (present continuous)
• Supomo has lived here for 20 years. (present perfect
Do you accept dollars? Yes, we do accept dollars, euros, pounds. (Yes-No Question)
• I was approached by some tourists today.

2. They also serve as independent verbs:

• I am a locksmith. (linking verb)
• You are very fast! (linking verb)
• Lien-Hua has an antique gramophone collection.
• They do charity work.
• He did it completely wrong.


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