Modal verbs in English

Modal verbs in English

There are two forms of verbs in English: personal and impersonal verbs. Modal verbs belong to the category of personal and mean modality, that is, obligation in the performance of some action, or the attitude of the speaker to the performance of this action. 

The main modal verbs are: 



Have to 





The use of modal verbs 

There are practically no peculiarities in the use of modal verbs, except for the fact that after them the particle to is not placed before the infinitive. In a sentence, the modal verb is an ordinary predicate and is placed immediately after the subject. 


1. Can

The verb is used to say that we can or cannot (can or cannot) do. For example, speaking five languages: 

  • I can speak five languages fluently.

In addition, we can make an interrogative sentence with permission to do something, or a polite request (using could). 

  • Сan I get this magazine?
  • Could you please close the oven for me?


2. Must

Means that someone must do something. Most often used when explaining rules, for example: 

  • You must not run at school.


3. Have to 

It is very similar in use to the previous verb but has differences from it. If must means rules set by someone else, then with have to the speaker limits himself, obliging him to do something. 

  • It's getting late. I have to go now. 


4. May/might 

Used to ask for permission in an even milder form than can, and also to express that very permission. 

- May I use your laptop for a while?  

- Yes, sure, you may use it as much as you need.  


Might expresses even less certainty in conjecture than may

  • She might come to the party, but she has a lot of homework.  


5. Need 

The only modal verb after which the infinitive is used together with the particle to. Used to say what is needed or not needed to do. 

  • I need to buy a new pair of shoes by the next month  


Features of modal verbs 

1. They form a negative form on their own, without the help of an auxiliary verb (it is not used at all in a sentence with a modal verb). 

  • I can’t go outside because of rain.  
  • He mustnt have done this. 
  • They needn’t to go to the university on their holidays. 


2. Almost all modal verbs (except have to) do not change depending on the subject. 









the guitar 




3. They do not have independence in expressing an action, but only talk about the possibility of performing it. 

  • She can go wherever she wants without your permission. 

4. Relating to the category of personal verbs, they do not have an initial form (infinitive), participle or gerund. 

5. In temporary structures, they can change shape (can – could, may – might, have to – had to) or remain unchanged (must).