Modals – Definition, Examples, Types, and Usage

Modals – Definition, Examples, Types, and Usage
What are modals verbs? Why are modal auxiliaries used in English? When do you need to use models in English? So many questions around one word – modals.
Don’t worry though, we’ve curated a guide just to clear all those questions. We’ve included examples to make it easier to understand the concept of modals in English. So, let’s explore modal auxiliaries (modal verbs):

What Are Modals?

Modals can be defined as a subset of the English auxiliary verbs and are used to show modality like obligation, and possibility, etc. They don’t have an infinitive form or participle which can be used to differentiate them from other verbs along with their neutralization.

Some other verbs are also sometimes, but not always, categorized as modals such as had better, dare, need, etc. The verbs with some properties of modals are called “pseudo-modals”, “quasi-modals”, or  “semi-modals“.

Modal Verbs Examples

Modal verbs are easier to understand with examples. Here are some examples of modal verbs, however, these are not all of them. We have covered all of them in the types of modals:

  • Should
  • Will
  • Would
  • May
  • Might
  • Must
  • Shall
  • Can
  • Could

Types of Modals

Here is a complete list of modals that includes modals and modal phrases, also known as semi-modals, in English:

  1. Will
  2. Shall
  3. Can
  4. Could
  5. Would
  6. Should
  7. Ought to
  8. Have to
  9. Has to
  10. Don’t have to
  11. Doesn’t have to
  12. Must
  13. Mustn’t
  14. May
  15. Might

Use of Modal Verbs and Example Sentences

Modal verbs are used in English to show functions like:

  • Possibility
  • Permission
  • Ability
  • Lack of necessity
  • Obligation
  • Probability
  • Prohibition
  • Advice
When using modals, remember to use them first in a verb phrase, for example:

  • Kristen must be her brother because they look so much like each other.
  • I will probably visit the museum, but I can’t make any promises.
In the first example, the person has made a statement as if the statement is a matter of fact. In the second one, the person’s statement shows a certain degree of uncertainty that excuses that person from making an obligation.
You can use the same modals verbs to show possibility or certainty, or absolute resolve or conviction. The different uses of the same modals make mastering modal auxiliaries quite tricky.

For instance, look at the modal ‘should go’ and how it is used below:

  • The shop closes in 15 minutes. We should go there for groceries now.
In this example ‘should go’ shows a strong sense of obligation because the person wants to tell the other person that they have to go to the shop before it closes.


Struggling to master the use of modals is normal as they are quite broad in their range and usage. Even native speakers and advanced students struggle with them. We are hopeful that our guide will make it easier for you to understand modals verbs.

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With over 3 years of experience in teaching, Chloe is very deeply connected with the topics that talk about the educational and general aspects of a student's life. Her writing has been very helpful for students to gain a better understanding of their academics and personal well-being. I’m also open to any suggestions that you might have! Please reach out to me at chloedaniel402 [at]