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7.4: The Meaning of Modals

  • Page ID
    5826
  • CAN

    General ability in the present to do something, or an informal request or permission granted.

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    • I can write a grammar book. George can sing better than his brother.
    • Can I have the last cookie? Megan can use my book.

    COULD

    General ability in the past to do something, or an informal request or permission granted.

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    • Lester could play the piano when he was five.
    • Could you pass the salt?

    MAY

    A formal request or permission granted, or a possibility, something that could or could not happen.

    Example \(\PageIndex{3}\):

    • May I go to the bathroom? Students may use a calculator on the test.
    • I may go see the movie tonight, or I may wake up early tomorrow to see it.

    MIGHT

    A possibility, something that could or could not happen. Usually stronger possibility than may.

    Example \(\PageIndex{4}\):

    The library might allow students to bring in food.

    MUST

    Something that is a necessity either in the present or the future, a strong possibility, or a near certainty in the present or past.

    Example \(\PageIndex{5}\):

    • For the best result, you must mix the batter for five minutes.
    • Andrew must be late.
    • You must have left the tickets in the car.

    SHOULD

    Suggestions or advice, obligations or duties, or expectations.

    Example \(\PageIndex{6}\):

    • Everyone should drink water every day.
    • The teacher should protect your personal information.
    • Your food should arrive soon.

    WILL

    A certainty, request, or promise.

    Example \(\PageIndex{7}\):

    • If you don’t go to sleep now, you will regret it tomorrow.
    • Will you go to Miranda’s party with me?
    • Jamie will plan the wedding.

    WOULD

    Polite requests or repeated actions in the past.

    Example \(\PageIndex{8}\):

    • Would you help me finish this pie? I would like some milk.
    • Whenever Elias needed help with writing, he would visit his professor.
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