Modal and Semi-Modal Verbs: Syllabus

Modal and semi-modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that are used to express our thoughts about people, actions and situations. They are used to describe what we feel is right, wrong, necessary, advisable and possible.

Modal verbs include the following:

Can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, and must.

These auxiliary verbs are followed by the infinitive without to.

  • I can surf.
  • She wouldn't hurt anyone's feeling.
  • Shall I drive?

Semi-modal verbs include the following:

Ought to, had better, have to, need to, use(d) to and would rather.

  • You ought to wear white more often.


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

  • Obligation and necessity
  • Forbiddance
  • Lack of obligation or necessity
  • Permission
  • Ability
  • Advice and suggestions
  • Offers and invitations
  • Taking a stance
  • Counterarguments
  • Possibility, expectation and certainty
  • Imagination
  • Preferences
  • Requests and inquiries
  • Willingness
  • Boldness
  • Habits, and permanence

10 Weeks


Modal and Semi-Modal Verbs: Syllabus

Week 1

  • Modal Verbs: Sentence Structures 
  • Semi-Modal Verbs
  • Adverbs and modal verbs
  • Willingness

Week 2

  • Obligation
  • Negative Obligation
  • Necessity
  • Advice

Week 3

  • Suggestions
  • Requests
  • Permission
  • Ability

Week 4

  • Possibility
  • Possibility and Certainty in the Present and Future
  • Possibility and Certainty in the Past
  • Expectations

Week 5

  • Would: the Past of Will
  • Would and Used to
  • Politeness and Formality 
  • Imagination

Week 6

  • General and Specific Preferences
  • Preference for the Actions of Others 
  • Counterarguments
  • Dare

Week 7

  • To be + adjective + the to-infinitive Past Certainty
  • Modality: Parts of speech, Part 1
  • Modality: Parts of speech,  Part 2
  • Expressions that use modal verbs

Week 8

  • Final Exam

Week 9

  • A grace period to submit late assignments

10 Weeks


More on the course

Had better and would rather are followed by the infinitive without to.

  • You had better wear a coat because it's cold outside.
  • I'd rather have a pineapple juice than a cocktail.

Have to, need to and use(d) to follow the same grammar rules as main verbs.

  • I didn't have to get up early this morning.
  • The doctor said I need to take these vitamins.
  • Did you use to play with  toy guns?

The following structure is also covered in this course.

To be + adjective + the to-infinitive.

  • I need to be able to drive to get this job.
  • Are you willing to volunteer for the reforestation project?

Modality in other parts of speech is also covered in this course.

  • A flight delay is possible this weekend due to the strike. (Possible is an adjective.)
  • As a security guard, it is your obligation to prevent unauthorized personnel from entering the building. (Obligation is a noun)

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