MODALS

Can – Could – (be) able to

Functions:

To show ability

To suggest a possibility or to give an option

To ask for or to give permission

To show impossibility

Example:

I can run 10 miles.

I could run 10 miles when I was in high school.

May – Might

Functions:

To ask for or to give permission (formal)

To show possibility

Example:

The instructor may come to class late today.

The instructor might have come to class late yesterday.

Must – have/has/had to

Function:

To show necessity

To show lack of necessity

Example:

I am glad that I don’t have to cook tonight.

We had better leave. It is getting late.

Will – Would – (be) going to

Function:

To indicate future time

To make a promise or to show willingness

To state a general truth

To ask a polite question

Example:

The federal government will provide assistance to the hurricane victims.

Mark promised that he would help me with my math homework.

Shall – Should – Ought to

Function:

To show advisability

To show advisability after the fact

To show obligation

To show an obligation that was not carried out

To show expectation

To show an expectation that was not realized

Example:

I should renew my driver’s license. It expires next month

You ought to receive my letter in two days.

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