Modality Definition and Examples in English

Modality Definition and Examples in English

There are several rules in forming a sentence in English. These rules are commonly called Grammar and one example of the rules in grammar is modality. What is modality? How do you use it in sentences? Here’s the definition of modality along with examples.

Modality Definition

Modality or often called modal verbs, modal auxiliary verbs, or modal auxiliaries are special verbs that provide additional information about the function of the main verb. Modality can also be auxiliary verbs (helping verbs) that provide expressions, such as possibilities, abilities, obligations, and permissions.

Here are some characteristics of modal verbs:

  • Modal verbs couldn’t change their forms. They can’t be given -s, -ed, -ing, and so on.
  • Modality is always followed by an infinitive verb without “to“, it also called bare infinitive.
  • Modal verbs are commonly used to express certainty, possibility, willingness, necessity, ability, obligation, and permission.

Modal Verbs List

Here are some modal verbs you can use in your sentences are:

  • Can
  • Could
  • May
  • Might
  • Will
  • Would
  • Shall
  • Should
  • Must

How to Use Modal Verbs

You can use capital verbs in sentences to express some of the functions below:

1. To ask permission

  • can
  • could
  • may

2. To make a request

  • can
  • could

3. To express a possibility

  • may
  • might
  • could

4. To give suggestion or advice

  • should

5. To express necessity or compulsion

  • must
  • have to

6. To express prohibition

  • must not

7. To express a promise or intention

  • shall
  • will

8. To express a wish

  • may

Modality in Sentence Examples

Modal VerbExpressionSentence Example
MustStrong obligationYou must stop when the traffic lights turn red.
Certainty She must be very tired. She has been working all day long.
Must not Prohibition You must not smoke in the hospital.
Can AbilityYou can swim well.
Permission Can I use your laptop, please?
PossibilitySmoking can cause many disease.
Could Ability in the past When I was younger, I could run very fast.
Polite permission Excuse me, could I sit here?
Possibility It could rain tomorrow morning!
May Permission May I use your phone, please?
Possibility, probability It may snow tomorrow evening!
Might Polite permission Might I suggest an idea?
Possibility, probability might go on holiday to Australia next year.
Need not Lack of necessity / absence of obligation need not buy tomatoes. There are plenty of tomatoes in the fridge.
Should / Ought to50% obligation should/ ought to see a doctor. I have a terrible headache.
Advice You should/ ought to revise your lesson.
Logical conclusion She should/ ought to be very tired. She has been working all day long.
Had better Advice You had better revise your assignment today.

A Thing to Note:

The form of modality or modal verbs will always be the same for all subjects (I, you, they, we, she, he, it). For examples:

  • I can swim
  • He can swim
  • They can swim
Also read:  Transition Signals Definition and Examples

That was our complete explanation of modality definition and examples. You can use these modal verbs in your essay or everyday’s conversation. Hope you understand this subject completely after reading this article. Thanks.

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