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.


Hello teacher, actually I have lots of questions here,
1- for request, Are all these options correct and same in meaning?, which is the best one if all acceptable?
can/could/may/might repeat that for me?
May/might/can/could I ask you question?
2-for offer, Are these all options correct and same in meaning? Which is the best one if all acceptable?
Can/could/may/might I help you?
3- in this sentebce, are all these options correct and same in meaning
He is verey ill. You shoud /must/have to call a doctor.
4-for expectation, what the difference in meaning when we use these modal verbs in this sentence?
He should /may/might arrive any minute.
5-Are all these options correct and same in meaning in thes sentence
if the flight was on time, he should /may /might arrive in Jakarta early this morning.
-For regret about past action, can we use must instead of should in this sentence
You should have been more careful.

Hello ronaz2015,

I'm afraid it's not possible for us to answer so many questions at once. We receive questions from many learners and try to work through them each day; if we spent so long on one answer then we would not have time to answer all the questions we receive.

Before asking, please take a look at the other pages on modal verbs. For example, the page on can or could looks at how these can be used in requests, and the difference between them. The page on may, might, may have and might have provides information on those words in requests.

If you look at these pages you'll find the answers to most of your questions, and we'll be happy to help you with answers you can't find.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I am confused with the use of -may,might,could. Let me show.

I may go for shopping today. Rob may meet me there and pay my shopping bill. Then we could go for a coffee or watch a movie. Afterwards,I might take him for long ride, but I would go only if he would be free.

I have used modals in this paragraph and please rectify it if there is any mistake in it.

Hi Rox4090,

Those are all fine. You could use other modals in some places ('might' instead of 'may', for example), but it is fine as you have written it apart from one error: the last part should say '...but I would go only if he were free'.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

hi, I want to know,
a) In conditional sentence how introductory subject is used?
suppose, if there had not been any mark in exam, I would not give exam.( there is no marks, no exam will be given). is the sentence is correct?

b) exactly when "had been" will be used?..what does the meaning of these two words stand for?

Hi Tanina Saha Shampa,

'Suppose' is used for questions based on hypotheticals:

Suppose there was no electricity in the city. What would you do?

We would not use 'Suppose, if...' in this way.

I would rephrase the sentence as follows:

If there had not been any marks in the exam, I would not give the exam.

However, though this is grammatically correct now, I am not sure what you are trying to say by 'no marks'.

'Had been' is the past perfect form of 'be', or part of various verb forms. I'm afraid you'll need to provide a specific example for us to comment - the range of meanings is too broad for us to describe all of them.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

good evening, i've a question for you:

1)you are supposed to be hitting me.

2) you should be hitting me.

i'd like to know whether there is a difference between the two senteces and why?

thank you in advance.

Hello rosario70,

The difference is that the first sentence describes expectation - the speaker is, for example, surprised that the person is not hitting them.

In the second sentence the speaker is giving advice - they think that hitting is necessary or required in some way.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi. I have a question regarding verb tenses in English. On my TEFL course we were taught there are strictly 12 tenses. But no mention was made of 'used to...' as in "I used to play the piano". I remember from my days studying French that this is termed the Imperfect tense [in that language] - do we not class this as an independent tense? Is it considered a modal verb construct? Would really appreciate clarity on this point, as I have searched online but cannot find a satisfactory summary of the point. Thanks for any help guys!

Hello William,

The number of tenses in English is an issue that has no easy answer, I'm afraid. There are many, including Dave Willis, the author of our grammar reference, who argue that there are only two tenses in English, though it's true that we often speak of 12. In neither case is 'used + infinitive' included as an independent tense. We concentrate on helping people learn English here so I can't go into great detail on this, but you might find the wikipedia entry on modal auxiliary verbs useful. I'd also recommend you take a look at TeachingEnglish, where there is also a forum in which you can ask about topics such as this one.

Good luck!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team