14 Sep


Any exam conducted by the Staff Selection Commission tests a candidate’s understanding of English language. Within English language section, special emphasis is there on testing the application of grammar. Thus, knowing the rules of grammar becomes a must.

In this context, one should know about Modal verbs and their relevance in sentence construction. Although everybody uses Modals in his/her day to day oral & written communication, yet learning them thoroughly is required from the exam perspective. Keeping this in mind, the center for Top SSC CGL Coaching in Delhi has explained below the important concepts related to Modals.

What are Modals?

Unlike main verbs, Modals are auxiliary verbs that are used to indicate modality i.e. likelihood, ability, permission, possibility, suggestion etc. They are auxiliary verbs which do not change their forms and don’t use ‘s’ for the third person singular like the main verbs do. Nor do they have Infinitive/Participle forms. The Modal verbs in English language are: Can, Could, May, Might, Shall, Should, Must, Must not/ May not, Need not, Will, Would & Ought to.

So, now let’s understand the use of these Modals the way it is explained at the institute for SSC CHSL Coaching in Delhi.


  • Ability to do something in the present – I can speak Japanese. She can run five kilometers in 10 minutes.
  • Inversions – She can go. Can she go?
  • Permission to do something (Informal) – Can I go to the movie with my friends?
  • Request something (Informal) – Can you wait a minute please?
  • Offer something – I can lend you my scooter till next week.
  • Making a suggestion – Can he be a substitute to the new teacher?
  • Possibility – The news can be false too.


  • Ability to do something in the past – As a kid, I could speak Japanese.
  • Polite question – Could I go to the sanctuary with my friends?
  • Polite request – Could you help me understand the procedure for the online form filling?
  • Polite offer – I could lend you the amount for your child’s admission.
  • Polite suggestion – He could be nominated for the Presidential elections.
  • Possibility – It could be a bad idea to visit Rajasthan in March.


  • Possibility- It may be a holiday tomorrow.
  • Permission to do something – May I take that newspaper?
  • Polite suggestion- May I help you in washing the dishes?


  • Possibility (less possible than ‘May’) – He might accompany us on the office tour.
  • Hesitant offer – Might I help you with your home assignment?


  • Force / Necessity – I must go to hospital this week for my routine check-up. (necessity). You must polish your shoes yourself. (force).
  • Possibility – You must be exhausted after such a rigorous work out at the gym.
  • Advice / Recommendation – She must attend Vidya Guru Bank PO Coaching Classes for successfully clearing the IBPS exams.


  • Prohibition – You must not use his password for logging in; it is unethical.
  • Asking negative questions – Mustn’t he speak the truth?


  • When something is not necessary – We need not go to the library today; we are going for a picnic.

(VIII) OUGHT TO (It is similar to SHOULD)

  • Advice – He ought to buy the uniform before attending the college.
  • Moral obligation – One ought to turn off the lights and fans before leaving the room.


  • Suggestion – Shall I accompany you as it is getting dark?


  • Advice – He should take proper care of his health in order to recover from jaundice.
  • Obligation – One should switch off the lights before leaving the place.


  • Wish – Will you make a cup of coffee for me?
  • Request – Will you pass the salt to me?
  • Demand / Order (less polite than WOULD) – Will you please stay away from my parents?
  • Prediction / Assumption – She thinks she will grab the beauty pageant this year.
  • Promise – I will never drink alcohol.
  • Spontaneous decision – Can someone drop me to the railway station? – I will.
  • Prediction (Specific / Timeless / Habitual) – The concert will be over soon. (specific). All else will perish, only truth will survive. (timeless). He will drink tea after lunch. (habitual)


  • Wish – He would like to be a famous singer someday.
  • Request (more polite than WILL) – Would you buy a pack of wafers for me?
  • Habits in the past – Sometimes we would have the evening tea together.

Contracted Forms of Modals

  • Cannot – can’t
  • Will – ‘ll (I will – I’ll)
  • Would not – won’t
  • Shall not – shan’t
  • Should not – shouldn’t
  • Must not – mustn’t
  • Need not – needn’t

Some Noteworty Points

  • We don’t use WILL in the ‘if’ / ‘when’ clause. Ex: If it rains, I will take an umbrella.
  • We use COULD HAVE, MIGHT HAVE & MAY HAVE to show that something was possible in the past. Ex: He might have called me, when I was out. We could have arrived an hour ago.
  • COULD NOT is used in the negative past. Ex: I’m sorry I couldn’t attend your party yesterday. The children couldn’t believe their eyes.
  • COULD is also used in the conditional (parallel to WOULD). Ex: We could have gone, if our car hadn’t broken down.
  • COULD is the most polite form that can be used when asking permission for something.
  • HAD BETTER is used for recommendation, future warning & desperate hope. It is the same as BETTER in spoken English. Ex:

(A) He had better be here before the play starts. (desperate hope)

(B) They had better be in their limits. (warning)

(C) You had better take the bus to reach sooner. (recommendation)

  • HAVE TO / HAS TO is used to express certainty, necessity & obligation. Ex:

(A) This has to be the right answer. (certainty)

(B) The figure has to be exact for correct calculation. (necessity)

(C) You have to be at the airport on time. (obligation)

Learning the concepts and rules explained above is undoubtedly a must. However, this understanding of Modals alone may not be enough to crack the questions asked in the exam. You need to attempt sufficient number of practice questions to develop the speed and skill required to leave your competitors behind. You may have joined the Best SSC Coaching Institute in Delhi, but without practice and self study cracking the exam is just not possible.


This article has been written for widening your knowledge related to Modals & their correct usage. For any issues, doubts, queries do feel free to write to vidyagurudelhi@gmail.com and expect a prompt reply.

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