Modal Verbs For Kids – Significance, Types And Activities

English is not an easy language and trying to teach a kid its grammar where every rule has an exception is no mean feat. The same goes for modals which are so important for children to learn as they will come across these words when they read and write. It is best to teach modals to children through examples before introducing them to the effect of those verbs in the sentence.

What Is A Modal Verb

Modal verbs are a special kind of verb, also called helping verbs, used along with the main verbs to change their meaning slightly and indicate ability, possibility, obligation and probability. Modal verbs are different from ordinary verbs, and don’t function alone. They need to be used with another verb to make a meaningful sentence.
The modal verbs list include some commonly used words — can, may might, will, would, shall, should, could, must, ought to.

Use Of Modal Verbs

  1. Modal Verbs Of Prohibition
  2. They are used to convey both necessity and obligation in a sentence. The reader or listener has clear guidance about what to do in a given situation.
    For example: You must finish the work tonight.

  3. Modal Verbs Of Suggestion
  4. These are used to either suggest something or to give advice. They are often used where it might be considered rude to give a direct order.
    For example: You should go to the doctor if you are not well.

  5. Modal Verbs Of Possibility And Promise
  6. They are commonly used to describe the likelihood of a situation happening and the intention or promise of something happening.
    Example of possibility: I could go there tomorrow.
    Example of promise: I will go there tomorrow.

  7. Inverting Modal Verbs
  8. In this the modal verb and the subject of a sentence are switched around to form a question.
    A sentence like ‘We could go to the market tomorrow’ would become ‘Could we go to the market tomorrow?’

Types Of Modal Verbs


It is used to show a skill or someone’s ability.

  1. Advice
  2. It is used to give some advice.

  3. Obligation
  4. These modals are used to give advice, instructions or to show that something is necessary.

  5. Permission
  6. They are used to give or ask permission for something.

  7. Prohibition
  8. They are used to express rules or boundaries.

  9. Possibility
  10. They are used to express the likelihood that something is likely to happen.

How to Use Modal Verbs in Sentences

It is important to remember that all modal verbs mentioned above have a negative form as well.

These are a few examples of how modal verbs can be used to indicate the probability or possibility of something happening.

  • I heard that it might rain today.
  • He might not go home this summer.
  • I think they will come by 8 pm.
  • He thinks his team will not win the match today.
  • Can you pick me up on your way home tomorrow?
  • Mary can’t go there if it starts raining.
  • I could go there if you want.
  • I couldn’t ask him if he was going to be busy.
  • Our friends may come to visit us next week.
  • It may not be a good idea to go for a walk today.
  • It would not be possible to go there before tomorrow.
  • He wouldn’t want to go there.

The sentences below are examples of modal verbs that express the necessity and obligation of the subject to perform a particular action.

  • All students ought to take their studies seriously.
  • You ought not to be driving in this heavy rain.
  • All children should follow the school dress code.
  • He shouldn’t be eating fast food if he wants to lose weight.
  • You must go to the doctor before your condition gets worse.
  • You mustn’t use anyone’s phone without their permission.
  • You will have to apply for a loan if you want to go abroad.
  • Betty thinks her team won’t win the championship if they don’t practise more.

Some of the modal verbs can be used to make suggestions, offers and requests.

  • It would be nice if you went there today.
  • Wouldn’t it be better if they started again?
  • I could go there if you want.
  • Couldn’t he have gone there earlier?
  • Shall I bring you a snack when I come?
  • I shall not ask him again!
  • Could you please pass me the salt?
  • Couldn’t he go there first?
  • Will you please shut the door when you go out?
  • I won’t be far away so you can call any time.

Modal Verbs Activities for Children

Though the rules of modal verbs can be taught to children and examples can be given to them, there is actually no easy way to learn modals. But there are some activities to help teach your kids modal verbs.

  • Fill In The Blanks
  • For this activity you could write some examples of sentences using modal verbs and then some more sentences with missing modals which the children can fill in.

  • Teach With Pictures
  • For this activity, you can start by showing your child a picture, something like ‘No Swimming’ and ask them what it means. If they say “no swimming,” ask them to elaborate on it. You should try to elicit “You can’t swim” or something similar.

  • Circle The Modals
  • Any old newspaper or magazine would do for this activity. Ask them to read an article and circle all the modal verbs they can spot. For slightly older children, you could also ask them to explain the meaning of the sentences they have circled.

  • Role Play
  • Role play is another way to help children understand modals. Ask them to construct their own dialogues using modals.

    Modal Verbs Exercises to Test Your Knowledge

    Fill in the blanks with appropriate modals:

    • ________ you be able to carry it alone?
    • Priya __________ apologise for speaking so rudely yesterday.
    • You _______ finish eating and then start with your homework.
    • I ______ make sure to keep everything ready in time.
    • ______ I come in?
    • She _______ find it interesting as she likes history.
    • Do you know how much all of this _______ cost?
    • ______ you please help me find my book?

    Now check if you used the right modal verbs

    • Would/Will you be able to bring your camera when you come?
    • Priya should/ought to apologise for speaking so rudely yesterday.
    • You should/could finish eating and then start with your homework.
    • I will make sure to keep everything ready in time.
    • Can/Shall/May I come in?
    • She might find it interesting as she likes history.
    • Do you know how much all of this would cost?
    • Can/Would/Could/Will you please help me find my book?

    Children need to learn the use of modal verbs because it helps in better and clearer communication. It allows them to comprehend instructions, rules and guides and thus helps them to act on what is being said or asked. Also, having an understanding of modal verbs allows them to be more particular about the words they use, which again helps in communication. Children are usually taught modal verbs when they are around 5 to 6 years old but are already aware of them as they come across them while reading storybooks. For more activities and exercises on modal verbs you could touch base with the EuroKids website for the latest updates.

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