Common mistakes made in using modal verbs

Modal Verbs:

A modal is a type of auxiliary (helping) verb that is used to express: ability, possibility, permission or obligation. Modal phrases are used to express the same things as modals, but are a combination of auxiliary verbs and the preposition too. The modals  in English are:

  1. Can/could
  2. May/might
  3. Shall/should
  4. Must/have to
  5. Will/would

Can/Could :

  • ability 
  • possibility
  • take and give permission
  1.    I can complete the task in 5 days.
  2.   Can you lend me your notebook?
  3.   Could you help me with this?


May/ Might :


  • Formal permission
  • Polite request
  • making formal suggestion
  1.  May I use your phone for a call?
  2.  You may start with the presentation of your idea.
  3.  May I go to a movie this weekend?


Shall/Should/Ought to :


  • To Offer of Assistance or Polite Suggestion
  • To Offer of Assistance 
  • A Prediction or Expectation that Something Will Happen
  • To Give Advice
  1.  Should I call a doctor?
  2.  You ought to have your car serviced before the winter.
  3.  I shouldn’t be late.

Must/Have to/Need to:


  • Show Necessity or requirement
  • Persuade
  • Prohibit
  1.  Ram must complete his work on time.
  2.  You must not drive over the speed limit
  3.  You must have the pass to enter the Museum.


Will/Would :


  • Polite Request or statement
  • Habitual past actions
  1.  Will you please take the trash out?
  2.  Would you mind if I sat here?
  3.  When I was a child, I would spend hours playing with my train set.



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