What are the twelve functions of modal verbs?

This is the fourth and final lesson about Modal Verbs. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Outline the twelve modal functions in an academic context

– Provide example sentences for the six attitudinal functions

– Provide example sentences for the six communicative functions

Lesson 4

Following the last three lessons on this topic which have covered the concepts, importance and forms of modal verbs within an academic context, this final lesson now provides detail about the many functions of these special auxiliary verbs. Twelve functions across attitudinal and communicative categories have been isolated, with example sentences for each possible modal verb being provided to help guide students when using modality in their own speech or writing. Please note that sometimes in the below examples it is the sentence function itself, such as whether a declarative statement or interrogative question is used, that may determine the appropriate modal verb.


Attitudinal Functions

Ability (be able to / can / could)

“I can do my presentation on Monday.”

“I could never come first in my class.”

“I am able to pass the exam provided I study.”


Deduction (must / ought to / should / will)

“Jack must be running a little late for class.”

“The teacher ought to be here by now.”

“She should have finished the exam by now.”

“That will probably be Sarah’s course book.”


Disapproval (dare / ought to / will)

“She wouldn’t dare be late.”

“You ought to be quiet and listen.”

“They will do things they shouldn’t be doing.”


Necessity (have to / must)

“You have to be more punctual if you wish to pass.”

“She must speak with me about her plagiarism.”


Obligation (have to / must / need / ought to / shall / should)

“You have to be at the exam hall by 9am.”

“He must not miss the deadline.”

“You needn’t email me again about this.”

“Jack ought to tell someone if he’s going to be absent.”

“You shall inform your group members about your cheating.”

“She should inform administration about her absence.”


Possibility (could / may / might)

“You could pass if you study hard.”

“He may find himself at the top of the class.”

“She might fail if she’s not careful.”


Communicative Functions

Advising (had better / ought to / should)

“You had better inform administration about your sickness.”

“Tell her that she ought to message me next time.”

“You should really take a day off to relax.”


Inviting (might / would)

Might you be interested in submitting your assignment early?”

Would you like to join our society?”


Offering (may / might / shall / would)

May I help you in any way?”

“Jack, might you be able to answer that question?”

“Michael shall help you with your work.”

Would you like any assistance, or are you OK?”


Permitting (can / may)

“You can go to the toilet.”

“You may leave class early if you really need to.”


Requesting (can / may / would)

Can I please leave class early as I have a doctor’s appointment?”

May I borrow your calculator for ten minutes?

Would you mind if I opened the window?”


Suggesting (could / shall / should)

“You could try using some online resources too.”

Shall we start class a little late tomorrow?”

Should we skip this chapter? It’s a little boring.”

4 of 4 Lessons Completed


Once you’ve completed all four lessons about modal verbs, you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Our modal verbs guidance sheet (including all four lessons about this topic) can be accessed here at the click of a button.

Gain unlimited access to our modal verbs beginner worksheet, with activities and answer keys designed to check a basic understanding of this topic’s lessons.

To check a confident understanding of this topic’s lessons, click on the button below to download our modal verbs intermediate worksheet with activities and answer keys.

Our modal verbs advanced worksheet with activities and answer keys has been created to check a sophisticated understanding of this topic’s lessons. 

To save yourself 5 Marks, click on the button below to gain unlimited access to all of our modal verbs guidance and worksheets. The All-in-1 Pack includes every lesson on this topic, as well as our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets in one handy PDF.


You may also wish to download any relevant PowerPoint activities, teacher resources or audio and video recordings we’ve created about this topic for only a few Academic Marks.

Click on the button below to gain unlimited access to our modal verbs teacher’s PowerPoint, which should include everything you’d need to successfully introduce this topic.


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