Modal Verbs | Definition and Examples

Modal Verbs | Definition and Examples

A modal verb is a type of auxiliary verb (helping verb) that expresses necessity, possibility, permission, or ability.

The most common modal verbs include must, shall, will, should, would, can, could, may, and might.

Modal verbs are generally followed by the root form (also called base form) of the main verb. This is the verb as it would appear in the dictionary.

Unlike other auxiliary verbs, modal verbs don’t have different forms for tense, person, or number.

As you can see in this example, the modal verb “would” is followed by the base verb “write.”

Typically, the word “to” should not follow a modal verb. The phrase “ought to,” which is considered a modal verb, is the exception to this rule.

To learn more about modal verbs, review WriteLab’s Guide


WriteLab brings together Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, and English Language Instruction. Student writing is analyzed in seconds with the WriteLab app—giving students feedback and suggestions on how to revise and polish their draft.

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