Modal verbs

 

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.
 

Comments

Hi,
My query is about modals.

Use of May-
1.Exercise may protect against depression.
2. Exercise may help to safeguard the mind against depression through previously unknown effects on working muscles,according to new study involving mice.
If I replace 'May' in the above sentence with might and could , the meaning and tone of the sentences remain the same or not.

Hello Rox4090,

'may' and 'might' would mean the same thing in both of the sentences you wrote. 'might' is perhaps a bit more common in speaking and 'may' a bit more in writing, but you can see both of them written as well as hear them spoken.

'could' can be used to talk about something possible in the future, but the sentences you write are not about the future - they are general statements. 'could' is not used to indicate possibility in this way, but 'can' is. You can see more about this on our certain, probable or possible page.

So you could also use 'can' in those two sentences, and it would mean the same thing as using 'may' or 'might'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Can you help me to know when exactly I have to use Might or could? Is the only reason to use Might the wish to be more polite or there are other reasons to use Might instead of Could and vice versa?
Thank you very much
Nuras

Hello Nuras,

Like all modal verbs, each of these is used with a range of meanings and for a range of functions, some similar and some different, and it is not possible to go through all of them in a short answer like this. I suggest you take a look at the pages related to different aspects of modals using the links above and if you have any specific questions regarding particular uses then we'll be happy to answer them for you. Remember that the more concrete and specific the question, ideally including a particular example, the more concrete and specific the answer we can give.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hey, is it right to use "Could it happen?" to ask if something can happen in the future?

Thanks

Hello kazekagesama01,

Yes, 'Could it happen?' can be used to ask if it is possible for something to happen in the present or in the future. This is explained on the certain, probably or possible page, which I suggest you read to see some other examples.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I have a doubt: for requests in formal order of polite, I use can, could, may and might?

Thanks

Hello Glauci,

You can find information on requests on this page.  You can find an exercise on requests and offers on this page [offers and requests are often put together].

Remember that making requests is a functional use of the language rather than a grammatical system. There are many ways of making requests, some of them purely reliant on intonation.  For example, the sentence 'It's hot' could be a statement of fact, an exclamation of surprise, a question or a request for a drink, depending on the context and the intonation used.

Intonation is also key to politeness.  The same sentence can be polite or rude, depending on how it is said.  For this reason, it is very difficult to say which modals, for example, are more or less polite.  All of them can be used politely if the intonation is appropriate.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team 

could someone tell me the we can use can,could,may and would for request. Then what is the difference in the uses of these for requesting. Please explain with nice examples.

Hello Yadraj,

Our grammar pages have explanations of the various uses of the different modal verbs. Please take a look at them - for example, ability, permission, requests and advice. There you will find both explanations and examples. After you've done that, you're welcome to ask us questions that aren't already answered there.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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