A modal verb is a type of verb that indicates an opinion about something or someone.
Take a look at the following sentences.
Sentence number 01 brings in a piece of information or a fact. It does not indicate the opinion of the speaker. In other words, it does not express anything about how the speaker feels about the comment he is making.
Sentence number 02 gives an idea that there is a possibility for him to sing at the party tonight. The sentence clearly expresses what he feels about it. This feeling is generated with the help of the modal verb “might”.
Modal verbs come under the category of Auxiliary verbs in English. Each and every modal verb expresses different opinions. This opinion or feeling is called “modality”.
If we take sentence 02 for example, the verb pattern is as follows.
Might = Modal verb
Sing = Base form of the action verb “sing”
We can replace “might” with many other modal verbs and generate different meanings as follows.
Let’s have them in sentences and understand their meanings.
I might sing a song at the party tonight. – There is a possibility / I’m not sure.
I will sing a song at the party tonight. – I intend to sing. / I’m sure of it.
I can sing a song at the party tonight. – I have the capacity. I’m able to do it.
You must sing a song at the party tonight. – Here, Someone is telling you that it is absolutely necessary.
Modal verbs express the speaker’s attitude to what he or she is saying. Hence, Modal verbs always have a close reference to the context of your sentence. Therefore, the following 7 important characteristics of Modal Verbs should be analyzed for a better understanding.
Let’s take a look at the following sample sentences.
|I will see him tomorrow.||Intention|
|Would you like a cup of tea?||Offer / Politeness|
|I shall see him tomorrow.||Possibility|
|Shall we take a taxi?||Suggestion / Proposal|
|You should work hard.||Obligation / Responsibility|
|I can play the guitar well.||Ability|
|Can you do this for me?||Request|
|Can I come in ?||Asking for permission|
|May I go out?||Asking for permission|
|You may leave now.||Giving permission / Order|
|He might come back.||Weak Possibility|
|I don’t care what they might say.||Weak Possibility|
|We must help each other.||necessity|
|You must not go to bed late.||advice|
|I could have told you the truth.||Regret|
|“Will you be there tomorrow?” he asked.||– a request|
|“I will be there tomorrow.” he said.||- Showing intention|
|“Will you stay out of this?” he shouted.||- An order / command.|
|Shall I bring you a cup of tea?||- Offer|
|Can I bring you a cup of tea?||- Offer|
|Situation and the opinion||Sentence with suitable modal verb|
|I plan to visit her house tomorrow.||I will see you tomorrow.|
| We usually meet at the bus-stop on our way to school.
Perhaps, we might meet tomorrow as well.
|I shall see you tomorrow.|
|I like to meet you. It is a mere desire.||I would like to see you tomorrow.|
Many modals have their Past Tense forms.
|Base form||Past Tense form|
However, the past tense verb forms of these modals do not necessarily generate the past tense idea every time they are used in sentences. Let’s understand this with an example.
In this sentence, the modal verb “would” has not been used in order to give a past tense idea. “Would” here suggests a present idea and bears a feeling of an invitation with politeness.
Eg: The verb phrase is underlined whereas the modal verb which comes first is highlighted.
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