IELTS Grammar: Modal Verbs
8 Sep 2014 admin
A modal verb is used to express likelihood, ability, permission and obligation. Examples include may/might, will/would, can/could, shall/should and must.
Can vs. Could
We use can + infinitive to express possibility and ability.
- I can make reservations at Nemo’s if you like.
- We can hold off the auction until everything is settled.
We use could as the past of can.
- I was trying to get in touch with her, but I couldn’t get through the lines.
- Although he could go out and meet with his friends, he opted to stay home and watch tv.
May vs. Might
We use both mayand might to express possible actions or happenings in the future. But we use only might when the situation is not real.
- Jorge may not come tonight because he isn’t feeling well.
- She might be the one I have been looking for.
- If I knew how to sing, I might join the choir. (not real)
Can vs. May
Both can and mayare used to ask for or grant permission. The only difference between these two is that one is more polite than the other. Can is often used in informal texts while may is in formal texts.
- Can you spare me a piece of bread?
- The letters were given to those it may concern.
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