Using modal verbs

Learning focus

To learn about modal verbs and use them accurately.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos

  • three activities


Modal verbs are words like can/could, may/might, will/would, shall/should and must. They are a special type of verb that impact other verbs in a sentence.

Watch this short clip to remind yourself all about modal verbs.

Learn about modal verbs.

Watch this video to understand more about how modal verbs can be used in your writing.

Understanding modal verbs.

Modal verbs

Modal verbs can be used to show:

  • Possibility (might, should)
  • Ability (can, could)
  • Obligation (must, have to)
  • Give permission (can, may)

For example

  • The Sea Monster must go away.
  • We should celebrate the work of our healthcare heroes.


You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Can you highlight the modal verbs in this piece of text?

Activity 2

Modal verbs show how likely something is to happen (degrees of possibility).

1. Write this sentence out five times. Each time, insert a different modal verb into the sentence.

“I think you ____ go to bed,” said Mum.

Can you explain how the meaning changes each time?

2. Number the sentences from 1 to 5 with (1) being 'least likely to happen' and (5) being 'most likely to happen'.

Top tip!

  • Some modal verbs you could include are: might, will, could, must and shouldn’t.

Activity 3

When we write rules or commands, we often use modal verbs to add strength to the sentence.

Imagine you are writing a set of rules about a certain topic.

You could choose from one of the following, or make up your own - real or imaginary!

  • How to score the perfect goal
  • How to be the best friend ever
  • How to be a superhero
  • How to trap a dragon

Your rules should have at least five steps and use a different modal verb in each instruction.

Where next?

In this lesson you have learned about modal verbs.

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