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Modals are words that function as auxiliaries to the main verb. 

They add additional meaning to the main verb.

When modals are used, the main verb is always in the basic form.

The modals are written in red letters.  

Fatima will move to New York with her husband this month. She can speak English well; however, she should continue to study to improve her writing skills. She would work as a nurse if she could pass the qualifying exams. In the immediate future, she might work as a saleswoman in her brother-in-law's carpet business.   

I shall ask my husband if I may study to be a nurse!

The Nine Modals


be going to...

Used to express something that will happen at a later time  


the conditional

Used to express something hypothetical that is not currently true

Fatima will study nursing when she comes to the United States.

If Fatima learned enough English, she would study nursing.   




be going to...

Used in  formal English to make the future for the first person


ought to...

Used to represent an obligation

Fatima said, "I shall receive my passport  next week." 

Fatima's husband said that she should help his brother in the carpet business.   




be able to...

Used to express ability  



was/were able to, might be able to

Used to express ability

Fatima can speak English well, but she can't write well enough to pass the TOEFL exam. 

Fatima could recite many portions of the Koran from memory when she was only fifteen years old. 





Used to request permission





Used to express possibility, or "maybe"

Fatima's husband has promised that she may study nursing if she works in his brother's carpet business for two years.  

Fatima and her husband might purchase a home in New York or New Jersey.  





have to...,  need to...

Used to express a strong suggestion


Both Fatima and her husband must understand that life in the United States is very different from life in North Africa.  


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