The World of Modal Auxiliary Verbs: An Introduction

As promised, we are back with our new English lesson on Modal Auxiliary Verbs. In the previous lesson, we learned about auxiliary verbs, their types, and their usage.

Today we will focus on the modal verbs and their different types. In our future lessons to come, the types of modal auxiliary verbs will be covered in detail.

So what is a modal verb?

Going by the definition, a modal happens to be a type of auxiliary (helping) verb which we use for expressing: capability, possibility, consent, or obligation. You can use modal phrases, also known as the semi-modals, to express similar things as modals, but in such cases, you have to use them as a combination of auxiliary verbs along with the preposition to.

The modals and semi-modals used in the English language are:

Will/ Would

Can/Could/Be Able to



Must/Have to

The Usage

You can also use the above words as helping verbs or auxiliary verbs. When you use them as helping auxiliary verbs, they are generally used in combination with the main verbs in order to convey the shades of time as well as the mood.

This conjunction of the helping verbs and the main verbs is known as the verb phrase or the verb string. Let’s understand this with the help of an example as given below.

“Coming July, we will have been married for 7 years”.

In this sentence, ‘will have been’ is the auxiliary verb while ‘married’ is the main verb.

Another important thing to remember is that the adverbs and the contracted forms of verbs are not part of the verb.

For instance, in the sentence ‘She informed us timely’; you can see how ‘timely’ had modified the verb ‘informed’. But you must note that ‘timely’ here is not a part of the main verb.

Another important thing to understand here is that the auxiliary verbs, ‘Shall’, ‘Will’ and forms of ‘Have’, ‘Be’ and ‘Do’ merge with main verbs to point out time and voice. As auxiliaries, they can change their forms to indicate changes in the subject and time.

Let’s consider a few examples to understand this well.

  1. I shall sleep now.
  2. They had left the town.
  3. We did water the plants.
  4. They are coming to our place.
  5. He has been working on that play for a long time.

Now that you have understood the basic things about modal verbs, in the next lesson we will cover the different types and their usage. Stay tuned!