Modal Verbs Examples

Modals are small words which come before the verb. They carry different meanings in different situations, The modals covered in this lesson are can, could, must, may, might, should, will, would, and ought to.

Can and Could

The modals can and could have different meanings when used in different situations.



I can speak Japanese.

present tense, is able to

When she was young she could swim for hours.

past tense, was able to

Can/Could you carry the bag, please?

polite request

Can/Could I get you a drink?


It could be broken.


We could walk instead of drive.



The modal must has the following meanings.



We must tell the truth.
We must keep our place clean.

obligation or need to do something

He fell asleep in the chair.
He must be tired.


Must I finish my vegetables?
Must you make so much noise?

When a question begins with must, it means “Is it necessary?” The question is usually a form of protest

May and Might

The modal may and might has the following meanings.



May we use the room?
Might I ask you another question?

To ask for permission. (May is more commonly used here than might)

You may leave now.
You may not be allowed to enter the room.

To give or refuse permission in formal English. (May is used here but not might)

She may be late.
He might come tonight.

To indicate possibility. (Might is used when there is a smaller probability of something happening.).

You may want to try that question again.
You might want to get your eyes tested.

To indicate suggestion.


The modal will has the following meanings.



We will not tolerate injustice.

show determination

She will be leaving for London next week.

show future action


The modal would has the following meanings.



John said that he would buy the car.

the past form of will in reported speech

If I had won a million dollars, I would travel around the world.

in imaginary conditions

She would always play the piano after everyone else was in bed.

to talk about past habits

Would you like to help me?

polite request

Should and Ought to

Ought to has similar functions and meanings as should.

The modal should and ought to have the following meanings.



We should sell this house.

We ought to sell this car.

to make a suggestion

We should be able to move next week.

It ought to sell fast.

to indicate expectation.

They should have come earlier.

We ought to have spent less.

to indicate regret


This English grammar lesson looks at how to use "can", "could", and "be able to", when talking about ability. This video explains which term is appropriate, depending on if you're talking about the past, present, or future.

Modal Verbs in English

This video lists some modal verbs and briefly explains their use. Can, could, may, might, must, should, will, would.

English modal verbs (Part 1): Can/can't, may/may not/mustn't, must/needn't

Modal verbs part 2: can/can't (ability), be able to

Modal verbs part 3: may / mustn't (permission), be allowed to

Modal verbs part 4: must / needn't (obligation), to have to

Grammar - Giving Advice - Should, Ought to, Had better
This video teaches you how to give advice, using 'should', 'ought to', and 'had better'. These are used differently and can mean different things.

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