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.



Thanks Sir and Merry Christmas!

If we are to fill in the blank correct modal verb for asking permission and we are not sure about the situation being formal or informal,which one is better to be used-can or may? Please explain,Sir.

Hello surendra kumar,

'can' is appropriate in a wider variety of contexts, so I'd recommend using 'can' over 'may', but that really depends on who's correcting the gaps. In many social situations (i.e. outside of class), though, sometimes it's better to be too formal than it is to be too informal, so 'may' might be more appropriate then. It really depends on the context and the on the relationship between the speakers.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Sir!

I would like to know more about "Auxiliary Verbs" please.

Hello aneeshtk,

Auxiliary verbs are also called 'helping verbs'. They are used only with another verb (the main verb) in order to make various tense, aspects, voices, or to make questions and negatives, or to add modality - modal verbs are auxiliary verbs too, and are followed by a main verb.

You can learn a little more about how the English verb phrase is constructed here.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Can anybody help me with a question I have for modal verbs? we were given the example, 'I'll kill you'.
I wrote that this was the simple future tense but was marked down and told it was wrong as will is a modal verb. I just don't get it! any explanations welcome! thanks in advance

Hello QuestionsForSchool,

There is no 'simple future' tense in English. English has two tenses (past and present), two aspects (continuous and perfective), plus active and passive voice.

To talk about the future, English uses a range of devices including modal verbs ('will' is one example, but 'may', 'might', 'should', 'can' and so on all can have future meanings), the present simple, the present continuous, past forms (in hypothetical statements) and more.

For more information about talking about the future please take a look at this page.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello the LearnEnglish Team,

I read that nowadays ‘may’ is almost exclusively used in situations ‘a child – a parent’, ‘a pupil – a teacher’, ‘an employee – a manager’, i. e. when one of the interlocutors has got higher social status than the other. I also came across the statement the answer “Yes, you may / No, you may not” sounds extremely bossy. Is it true? Can ‘may’ be heard in modern BrE when peers are talking? Is it often used in business negotiations?

Thans in advance,


Hello Elena,

You can certainly hear 'may' used in this way in modern British English, though 'can' is used much more commonly. It's difficult to predict how other people would react if you used 'may' to give or deny permission, but some people certainly could interpret your use of it as you thinking that you are in a hierarchically superior position to them (e.g. a strict teacher speaking to a student who is misbehaving). Depending on what the situation is in a business context, you might or might not want to communicate this hierarchy, but in the vast majority of contexts, I'd say using 'can' instead of 'may' is probably best.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team