english modal verbs

10 English Modal Verbs to Improve Your English Communication Skills

English Modal verbs are basically helping verbs or auxiliary verbs. English Modal verbs are needed not only in standard English but also in Legal English such as with Contracts, Negotiation, Mediation and Arbitration scenarios to express duties, obligations, expectations, ability, permission and intention. The importance of modal verbs in the English language cannot be over-stated. Below are 10 important English modal verbs and their meaning/connotation:


01. Canpossibility, permission; ability

Example: 1. Can that really happen? (Is that really possible?)

Example 2: Yes you can; but be sure to return by midnight. (You have permission)

Example 3: Can you do the Harlem Shake? (Do you have the ability to do the Harlem Shake?)


02. Couldpast of can; possibility; permission; possible circumstance

Example 1. Could past generations use the computer?

Example 2: Mom said I could.

Example 3: This could tip negotiations in our favor.


03. WillFuture intention; strong future probability; future certainty

Example 1: I will marry you next year.

Example 2: We will get married next year.

Example 3: We will marry next year.


04. Wouldpast of will; conditional action

Example 1: Would you have married him if you knew then what you know now?

Example 2: I would if you helped me with my own situation.


05. Oughtduty

Example 1: You ought to go to your sister’s wedding.


06. MayPermission; possibility

Example 1: Yes you may.

Example 2: It may rain tomorrow.


07. Mightprobability; past of may

Example 1: It might not work out.

Example 2: He might have caved if you had quit while you were ahead.


08. Shallobligation; order; command

Example 1: The defendant shall file his answer to the complaint 30 days after service of process.

Example 2: All parties shall stand.

Example 3: You shall do as you are told!


09. Shouldprobable duty; conditional choice; expectation; circumstantial requirement

Example 1: You should consider going to the party

Example 2: They should probably not negotiate with him.

Example 3: I should have known you would breach the contract.

Example 4: All members of the class action should have a choice to opt in or out.


10. Mustnecessity; requirement

Example 1: This computer must carry defective warranty otherwise I don’t want it.

Example 2: You must fill in all the blank spaces and sign the document before your return it to the proctor.


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