Modal auxiliary verbs with examples

The modal auxiliary is a helping verb that is used to express: ability, possibility, permission, making mood, certain actions, expression and duties. It always go with the main verb or we can say it is a combination of helping verb with main verb. It is important to know that the auxiliary verb can never be used as a main verb except some like (be or have). They do not have five forms like main verbs have.


Used to represent power, capacity, ability.

I can speak French.

He can swim across the river

You can go now.

We can start now.

This can’t be true.

Used to represent theoretical possibility.

Anybody can make mistakes.

Thundering can be dangerous.

Used to represent permission.

Can I sit down.

Can I have some more rice, please?

You can start now.


Used in past tense form of can, past capacity, past ability, polite request, unreal conditions.

I could not attend the party.

He told me that he could help me.

You could pass the examination.

We could not reach on time.

If Ram had more money, he could buy a car.

Used to represent polite request, unreal conditions.

Could I smoke here?

Could you go there?

Could we go now?

Could I use your pen?


Used to represent permission, desire, devotion.

May I go now?

May God bless you!

May I come in?

May you live long!

Used to represent purpose, possibility, uncertainty.

It may be true.

It may rain today.

We may be late.

Ram may buy plot this year.


Used in past tense form of may, for polite request, permission.

It might rain today.

They might come anytime.

What the victim says might be true.

He might come here.

Might I ask a question?


Used in past tense form of shall, for idea, advice, instruction.

We should go home.

You should consult a doctor.

We should not tell lie.

Students should respect teachers.

He should not go there.

What should I do?

Why should not I go there?


Used for strong advice, strong determination, strong possibility, command, instruction.

You must go.

He must be honest.

We must respects our elders.

He must have waited for you.

You must take medicine on time.


Used in strong determination.

She would have her own way.

He would rather go than stay.

After lunch she would have a strong nap.

Used in polite request or polite question

Would you please listen to me?

Who would you like to talk to?

What would you like, ma’am?

Used in choice, preference, desire

I wish I would see her again.

I would like to take part in this event.

I would like to speak English fluently.


used to be necessary, to have to.

You need not go there.

I need your help.

He need some money.

They need not come here.

There is no need to worry.