A Quick Guide to Modals in English

What is the difference between modal and auxiliary verbs?

Which sentence is grammatically correct: “You must do it now.” or “You should do it now.”? Well, both are, but they convey different meanings. Just notice how a single word changed the meaning of the entire sentence completely. This word is a modal verb

Modal verbs are one of the aspects of English that make learning the language so challenging and interesting at the same time. But what are they? And how can you use them? 

If you want to fully understand modal verbs, why not attend a comprehensive English language course in a renowned school in California? Experienced teachers will know how to explain modals to you. 

But as with other segments of the language, such as linking verbs and their use, different types of sentences, or numerous action verbs in English, you’ll need to invest additional effort and practice on your own. 

That’s why we prepared a few tips that can complement the knowledge you acquire during your classes. Keep reading to learn more! 

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What is the difference between modal and auxiliary verbs?

Auxiliary verbs add grammatical or functional meaning to the clauses in which they are used. They can be used to express aspect, voice, modality, tense, etc. For example, I have read this book so many times. “Have” is an auxiliary, which helps express the perfect aspect.

Modal verbs also fall in the category of auxiliary verbs. But they indicate the modality in a clause. You use them to express certainty, ability, willingness, necessity, permission, obligation, advice, and possibility. For instance: Mary might come tomorrow. “Might” is a modal verb here, and it shows the likelihood of a certain action. 

NB: All modal verbs are auxiliaries, but not all auxiliaries are modal verbs.

What are the 5 main types of modals?

Depending on the meaning they express, there are five main types of modal verbs:

  • Modals denoting ability: can and could. I can speak four languages
  • Modals expressing permission: can and may. May I open the window
  • Modals for likelihood: will, might, may, can, and could. It may rain today
  • Modals denoting obligation: must and have to. You must do your homework regularly
  • Modals for giving advice: should. I think you should stop smoking

How do you use modals correctly?

Modals may be overwhelming and difficult to remember at first, but the more you practice, the more you’re going to use them properly. There are four fundamental rules you need to bear in mind when using modals. Let's see what they are. 

  • Modal verbs always come first in a verb phrase. I can swim very well.
  • Modal verbs are followed by bare infinitives. You should be more careful next time. 
  • You can’t add “-s”, “-ed”, or “-ing” to modals: Mary must work hard today. 
  • Modal verbs form their negative and interrogative like other auxiliaries: I can't dive. 

Where can I find a reliable English language school in California? 

With the above-mentioned rules, we only uncovered the tip of a huge iceberg. Modals are a rather complex topic with a lot of nuances. So, if you want to get a full grasp of modals, it’s always better to sign up for a language course. 

If you are looking for a school that can lead you through your language learning journey, you’ve come to the right place. The College of English Language boasts marvelous learning conditions featuring high-tech classrooms and experienced native teachers. And all this in unbelievable locations in San Diego, Pacific Beach, and Santa Monica. Or, if you prefer to learn from the comfort of your home, we have prepared online courses too for only $150 for 20 lessons per week!

Just imagine attending classes and then having an opportunity to implement everything you’ve learned by chatting with your neighbors at Pacific Park? Sounds unbelievable, doesn't it?  So, contact us, and let your language learning adventure begin! 




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