The modal verbs are:

can could
may might
shall should
will would

We use modal verbs to show if we believe something is certain, probable or possible (or not). We also use modals to do things like talking about ability, asking permission making requests and offers, and so on.


Hello Patricia MacDougall,

In most cases, 'shall' and 'will' are interchangeable. However, when used in contracts there can be a difference. 'Will' refers simply to a future time, while 'shall' represents an obligation, requirement or duty.

The topic is discussed on this page, which I think will clarify it for you:



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for the reference and your quick reply, Peter.
I see that in legal terms "shall" is complicated. It seems the case especially when translated. I had discovered various references to the "shall/must" argument and the link you have given me supports the ambiguity argument. Finally, with many examples in the same building code between "shall be permitted" vs "shall" I was able to convince the colleagues that the former is an optional provision, while the latter is an obligatory requirement.

Hi Patricia,
I fear you may have over-analysed this. The word 'shall' in both of your examples does indeed imply a mandatory requirement.
In the case of "shall be permitted", the 'shall' simply refers to the obligation that permission be granted (should it be requested).
There is no ambiguity in the value of the word itself, only a difference in context.
Buena suerte con los colegas.

Hi, I have a question. Would 'depending on' be considered a modal verb? As in 'I might go for a walk, depending on how the weather holds out'. Having trouble working out which grammatical category this fits into. Thanks.

Hello shani,

'Depending on' is a participle phrase, not a phrasal verb. The verb is 'depend' and it is often followed by a preposition ('depend on') but it can also be used by itself:

Our answer depends on the cost.

Are you going to buy it? It depends how much it costs.


You can see a list of common verbs which are followed by prepositions on this page.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

That's very helpful, thanks!


I was to have left on Thursday. But on Thursday I had a terrible cold so I decided to wait till Saturday.

In the above example, can I use "had to" in place of *was to have left"

Hello amol,

In terms of grammar, you can say 'I was to have left' or 'I had to leave', but the meaning is slightly different.

'I was to have left' means the same as 'I was supposed to leave'. It describes a plan or intention which was not completed.

'I had to leave' describes an obligation. It suggests that something made it necessary for you to leave. This may have been something you know in advance or something which surprised you.

There is a problem with the sense of the second sentence, however. 'I had to leave' suggests you had no choice, but the second part of the sentence makes it clear that you did have a choice, because a cold was enough to change your mind. This would appear to be contradictory.



The LearnEnglish Team

while asking a question to someone
for future, should we use 'Wll'or
'Going To' ?

When will you buy a car or when are
you going to buy a car and
when will you come or go or when
are you going to come or go ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Both are possible.

There are many ways of talking about future time. If we are asking about a person's intention or plan then 'going to' is appropriate. If we are asking about a decision made at the moment of speaking then 'will' is more likely.

You can read about future forms on our page on the topic.



The LearnEnglish Team