where are modals used

Here are a few explanations with examples to explain the concept of Modals:


Can usually expresses ability, capacity or permission.

  • Can you get me a medicine?

  • He can work for hours at a stretch;

  • I can swim in a river.


May is rather formal. It is used to express possibility in affirmative sentences. Can is used in the corresponding interrogative and negative sentences.

  • It may rain today;

  • She may come for the party;

  • Can this be true?

  • It cannot be false!


Could and Might are used as past equivalents of can and may . In present times, could and might are used as less positive versions of can and may .

  • I could easily solve the puzzle;

  • The host might not turn up at all;

  • Could you pass me the salt?

  • You could have accepted the offer.

  • You might want to give an explanation.


Shall is used in the first person, although it is sometimes used in the second and third persons to express a command, a promise or a threat.

  • When shall we see you again?

  • It shall be a holiday tomorrow;

  • You shall be punished for this.

  • He shall never en ter my house ever again.


Will is used in all the persons to express pure future. Today, people have the tendency to use will more than shall .

  • I am not lying, you will see;

  • We will go for a picnic tomorrow.

Will is used to express volition, characteristic habit, assumption or probability.


They are used as past equivalents of shall and will .

Should is used in all persons to express duty or obligation.

  • We should obey traffic rules;

  • You should have kept your word.

Should is used to express a supposition that may not be true.

  • If it should rain, they will not come;

  • If he should see me here, he would be irritated.

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