Common Modal Usage

Using Simple Tenses and Modals

To state facts

    Present Past Modal
    Lions live in Africa. Dinosaurs roamed the earth for millions of years. Mr. Jones can juggle.
    Water consists of hydrogen and oxygen. My grandmother passed away last March. He couldn’t swim at age 10.

To express opinions

    (I think) smoking is a disgusting habit. That was delicious. Gambling should be banned in the US.
    The Internet is more useful than the library. I thought she gave an excellent performance. He must really like ice cream.
    I think it was a beautiful concert. You should have left earlier.

To indicate actions which occur every day or on a regular basis

    I get up at 7:30 every day. When I was in high school, I got up at 6:30. I have to be at the office at 7.
    My father drives to work on Tuesdays. My mother rode the bus until she bought a car. They used to take the subway.

With frequency adverbs

    Jerry always comes to class on time. At camp, she usually ate breakfast before 7:00. You should never be late for work.

Using Modals in various situations


Asking Permission




Can you help me?

Can I help you?

I can use some help.

I can help you.

Could you help me?

Could I help you?

I could use some help.

I could help you.

May I help you?

I may need some

I may help you.

help. (probably)

I might need some

I might help you

help. (probably)

Will you help me?

I will need some

I will help you.

help. (most likely)

Would you help me?

I would need some help.

I would help you.

(I guess I probably can’t

do it by myself.)

Would you mind

Would you mind if

helping me?

I helped you?