Modal Verbs: What Are They & Must I Use Them?

What are modal verbs?

Hm, “must I use them?”. Well, you’re already using modal verbs without even realizing it! Now, wasn’t that easy? And peasy? However, if you’d like to really get the essence of what modal verbs are, why not consider learning English at a language school?

Yes, it might be a bit tricky choosing the best English language school in your vicinity, but there’s more to learning about modals then just how many modal verbs there are. So, if you’re trying to learn English in California, let’s see how we can help you tackle modal verbs.

What are modal verbs?

Modal verbs are, essentially, auxiliary verbs, or helping verbs, as they’re also called. However, perhaps the best way to think of modal verbs is as verbs that modify the meaning of the main verb.

For example, by using modal verbs, you can easily change the meaning of an entire sentence in a jiffy. How? Well, you can do this by simply placing the modal verb in front of the main verb, thus modifying its meaning and, consequently, the meaning of the entire sentence.

Modal verbs are really easy to use, as we’ll see later on, and when you learn how to use them properly, you’ll enter a whole new world of language use. You’ll be able to express more meaning more easily, and isn’t that great?

Do I have to use modal verbs?

You don’t, nobody’s forcing you. It’s not like there’s a law by the University of California Department of Linguistics forcing you to use modal verbs in every third sentence you utter under the penalty of jail.

So no, you don’t have to use modal verbs. However, you’ve probably been using them for some time now without even knowing it. They sort of creep into your everyday language, burrow themselves in, and stay there forever.

And, as we’ve already said, modal verbs open up a whole new way of speaking and writing with their ability to quickly change the meaning of a verb and a sentence. Also, some questions can be considered impolite if not asked using a modal verb, so there’s that to think about as well.

Why should I use modal verbs?

Again, you see, “should”. It’s a modal verb. We’ve told you - they’re everywhere. But, let’s see the three main reasons why you should use modal verbs:

  • Easy - They’re really easy to use and you’d be missing out by not taking advantage of such a favorable linguistic opportunity. 
  • Meaning - By using modal verbs, you’re able to express nuances in meaning that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. 
  • Politeness - Finally, some modal verbs are “polite”, meaning that you’ll sound more polite when you use them to ask questions or propose suggestions, which is important when speaking a foreign language. 

How should I use modal verbs?

You should use modal verbs however you see fit. Want to throw it into a sentence? Go for it! Want to express a different meaning? Why not? Looking to sound polite? Oh yes! But, joking aside, let’s see if we can explain how to use modal verbs properly:

  • First, let’s take a simple sentence like Tommy plays football.
  • Secondly, let’s select a modal verb we’d like to use such as “should”.
  • Now, let’s find a place for it in the sentence. The place of the modal verb is, most of the time, just before the main verb - Tommy should play football.
  • As you can see, there’s no “s” on play anymore, nevermind it's the third person singular. That’s because of the modal - when you use a modal verb, the main verb is always in the form of a bare infinitive
  • Finally, let’s summarize. Modal verbs go before the main verb. You don’t have to use them in a tense, you don’t have to change the main verb from its bare infinitive form, and you don’t have to worry about making a mistake. As we’ve said- easy!

“Modals are still a bit tricky - where can I learn English better in California?”

If you’re struggling with modals, or with any other part of the English grammar, you should definitely look for an English language school that suits your needs. Luckily, we know of a school that suits everybody’s needs - College of English Language!

We’re a modern school that places emphasis on its students. We’re here for you, and our teachers will do their best to implement bleeding edge teaching methods in order for you to learn the language quickly and easily. So, if you’re ever near Gaslamp Quarter, you’re near our school. Stop by and see what we’re about!