What Is Modality in English Grammar?

Modality in English Grammar
Modality in English Grammar

Modality in English grammar is a way of examining and talking about the following concepts:

Obligation and necessity

  • You must wear a helmet. (Modal verb)
  • You have to wear a helmet. (Auxiliary verb)
  • Nouns, adjectives and other parts of speech can also be used to talk about modality.
    • It is your obligation to wear a helmet. (Noun)
    • It is necessary for you to wear a helmet. (Adjective)
    • You need to wear a helmet. (Verb)

Forbiddance

  • You cannot eat on the bus. (Modal verb)
  • Eating on the bus is strictly forbidden. (Adjective)
  • There is a restriction on eating on buses. (Noun)

Lack of obligation or necessity

  • You needn’t wear a tie to go to the event. (Modal verb)
  • You don’t have to wear a tie to go to the event. (Auxiliary verb)
  • It’s unnecessary for you to wear a tie to the event. (Adjective)
  • You are not required to wear a tie to go to the event. (Past participle form of a verb)

Permission

  • You may enter the restaurant with your dog. (Modal verb)
    • You have permission to enter the restaurant with your dog. (Noun)
    • You are allowed to enter the restaurant with your dog. (Past participle form of a verb)

Ability

  • He can surf. (Modal verb)
    • He is able to surf. (Adjective)
    • He has the ability to surf. (Noun)

Advice and suggestions

  • You should book a room with an ocean view. (Modal verb)
  • It’s advisable for you to book a room with an ocean view. (Adjective)
  • I suggest that you book a room with an ocean view. (Verb)

Offers and invitations

  • Would you like me to show you around your new office? (Modal verb)
  • I’m delighted to show you around your new office. (Adjective)
  • Allow me to show you around your new office. (Verb)

Taking a stance

  • I am an advocate of producing finished products before launching them on the market. (Noun)

Counterarguments

  • Qualified though she may be, she did not land the job. (Modal verb)
  • Although she was qualified, she did not land the job. (Conjunction)
  • She was highly qualified. Nevertheless, she did not land the job. (Adverb)

Possibility, expectation and certainty

  • He’s not answering his phone. He might be attending to customers. (Modal verb)
  • It’s possible that he is attending to customers. (Adjective)
  • He’s probably attending to customers. (Adverb)

Imagination

  • Could you imagine having magic? What would you do? (Modal verb)
  • Imagine you had magic, what would you do? (Verb)
  • Supposing you had magic, what would you do? (Conjunction)

Preferences

  • I’d rather stay in a suite with an ocean view than a room facing the courtyard. (Phrase containing a modal verb)
  • I prefer a suite with an ocean view to a room facing the courtyard. (Verb)
  • A suite with an ocean view is preferable to a room facing the courtyard. (Adjective)

Requests and inquiries

  • Could you work the night shift this weekend? (Modal verb)
  • I’m requesting that you work the night shift this weekend. (Verb)
  • Please consider my request for you to work the night shift this weekend. (Noun)

Willingness

  • Don’t worry. I’ll sleep in the upper bunk. (Modal verb)
  • I’m willing to sleep in the upper bunk. (Adjective)
  • I don’t mind sleeping in the upper bunk. (Verb)

Boldness

  • I daren’t climb that rock face. (Modal Verb)
  • I’m not brave enough to climb that rock face. (Adjective)
  • I don’t have the courage to climb that rock face. (Noun)

Habits and permanence

  • When I was in college, we would go to the pub once a week. (Modal verb)
  • When I was in college, we used to go to the pub once a week. (Auxiliary verb)
  • When I was in college, we were in the habit of going to the pub every week. (Noun)

Watch the video on modality in English grammar

Learn more about modality in English grammar

Check out the syllabus of our course called Modality, which is about modality in English grammar. If you’re interested in signing up for the course please go to our learning management system (LMS.)

Leave a Reply