Modals – Uses of Modals | Types of Verbs – Transitive, Intransitive & Helping Verbs



A sentence generally comprises of subject, verb and object.  Verb is a word showing some action or deed in the sentence.

The child drinks milk.

In this sentence ‘drinks’ shows an ‘action’. It is a verb.


Types of Verbs : —— Transitive Verb and Intransitive Verb.

Transitive verb
is a word that denotes an action which passes on from the subject to  object.

In other words a transitive verb governs the object.

In the above sentence drinks is a transitive verb.

The word ‘drink’ conveys an action between ‘the child’ and ‘milk’.

Intransitive verb
is a word that denotes an action which does not pass on to an object.

The child weeps.

In the above sentence the word ‘weeps’ denotes action but it does not pass on to any object.

So there is no object in the sentence.

A sentence with an intransitive verb has no object.
Come, go, laugh, sleep are similar words.

These are intransitive verbs according to their use in a particular sentence.

Some verbs are used both as transitive as well as intransitive verbs.

Birds fly in the sky.                                                     Boys fly kites.
The slate broke.                                                         He broke the slate.
The train stopped.                                                    I stopped him from going there.
The office opens at 10 a.m.                                     He opened the door.
The examination begins tomorrow.                      I shall begin my work now.
Boys run in the garden.                                         He runs a factory.



Rise, Lie & fall are intransitive verbs but raise, lay & fall are transitive verbs.

The sun rises in the east. The child raised his head.

The old man lies in the bed. She laid the book on the table.

The tree fell down. He felled the tree.


Such verbs are called Principal Verbs but along with these there are words which are used in the sentence to help to form the tense or the mood of the Principal Verb.

These  are called ‘Auxiliary’ or ‘Helping’ verbs or ‘Modals’.


Modal means relating to some “mode, or form “. A modal verb is a helper that gives additional information about the verb that follows it, and includes such words as “can,” “will,” “should,” and “may,” among others.

Modals are : Will, Shall, Should, Would, May, Might, Must, Can, Need, Ought to, Used to.

Main features of Modals are:

These are used in the sentence to express a request, permission. willingness, possibility, ability or power to act.

These verbs are used along with the main verb. These are not used alone.Along with a modal first form of verb is used.

A Modal remains unchanged irrespective of number or gender of the subject.

The word ‘to’ is used along with ‘ought’ and ‘used’.


We should help him.

He may not come today.

In these sentences ‘should’ and ‘may’ are helping verbs.



The Use Of Shall & Will

‘Shall’  is used to express simple future tense in the first person & ‘Will’ in the second and third person; as,

I shall be late for the office.
The boys will succeed in the competition.
Your brother or you will win the race.
His brothers will start a sugar factory.

Shall with the second or third person expresses a command, a promise, a threat or a determination; as,
(a) Command:

He shall go to Simla.
You shall not play.

(b) Promise :

We shall  be free tomorrow.

(c) Threat:

He shall be fined.

(d) Determination :

He shall leave this very instant.You shall carry out the orders, whether you like them or not.

In asking questions shall is used  in the first person and will in the second & third person; as,

Shall I call him?Will he come to see me on Monday?Will you help me in doing this sum ?

The Use Of Should & Would


‘Should’ is the past tense of  ‘Shall’. A Noun clause is used in this case.
We said that we should help our friends.
I said that I should not go to the market.
In these sentences, ‘should’  gives the meaning of future tense.

‘Should’ also expresses the meaning of ‘advice’, ‘suggestion’, ‘counsel’. or ‘duty‘;as in the following sentences:

One should do one’s duty.

The children should respect their elders.

He should not make any mistake now.



Would’ is the past tense of  ‘Will’. It is used in this form.

It is used in  the Indirect form of speech as in the following sentences :

She said that she would not go to the office that day.
I asked him if he would lend me his watch.
He told me that he  would not help me.
John told her that he would make no mistake then.
Would is used to express  a request.It is used in the present tense; as,

Would you please fetch me a glass of water?
Would you help me in solving these sums?
Would you attend to the customers, please?


Would is used to express of a habit of past time. It is used in the past tense.

He would travel by a bus.
My father would get angry over trifles.
Boys would act in a responsible manner in their childhood.


Would is used to express a strong determination. 

Come what may, I would reach there tomorrow in the morning.

She told that she would make all efforts to solve this problem.

He would have his own way.


Would is used in conditional sentences.
If I were you, I would have behaved in the same manner.If he were here, I would have talked to him.If you were with us, you too would have helped her.

Would is used to express a desire.
Would that I were rich !Would that I were a millionaire!Would that she were young!


The Use of 'Can'
Can is used to express ‘ability’, ‘capacity’, ‘permission’ or authority to do a work as in following sentences:

The old man is very week. He cannot walk.

This sentence shows inability of the old man to walk.


The lady can play chess.

This sentence shows that the lady has the capacity to play chess.


The boss can grant you permission.

This sentence shows that the boss has the authority to permit.


You can take my motorcycle.

This sentence shows permission granted to use the motorcycle.


Just look at the following sentences:

I am alright now. I can go home.
You are alright now. You can go home.
The boss says that you cannot go home.
I shall inquire if I can go home.

The Use of Could
‘Could’ is past tense of ‘can’. ‘Could’ is used to express ability in the past time; as in the following sentences:

He could express his feelings to her.

The team could win the match last year.

The young lady could deliver her speech fluently.

He could not attend the meeting yesterday.

He could not help laughing.


‘Could’ is used in present tense to express a request; as in the following sentences:

Could you lend me your book?
Could you extend a helping hand to the old man?

Could you feel convenient to attend the meeting tomorrow?

The Use of 'May'
May is used in present tense to seek and grant permission; as in the following sentences:

May I come in, Sir ?

May I go to see my mother?

May we accompany you to visit the training centre ?

May I leave now?

You may go now.

You may take the guests to the market.

You may leave the office early today.

You may consult your lawyer.


May is used to express ‘possibility’ or ‘probability’ of an action; as in the following sentences:

The guests may reach today.

It may take us time to reach there.

They may not finish their work in time.

We may be late to our office.

It may rain tomorrow.


May is used to express a wish; as in the following sentences:

May the king live long!

May God help them!

May you prosper in your life!

The Use of 'Might'

‘Might’ is the past tense of ‘May’.

It is used to express a remote possibility in the past.

It is used in the indirect form of speech.


He told me that he might come late in the evening.

His father thought that his son might get through the examination.

The sky is overcast with clouds. It might rain at night.

John is not serious about his studies. He might fail in the examination.


‘Might’ is used in the Adverbial clause with a function of showing purpose.

He walked fast so that he might catch the train.

He worked hard so that he might get through the examination.



‘May’ in the direct form of speech changes into ‘Might’ in the indirect form of speech.

‘Might’ in the direct form of speech remains unchanged ‘Might’ in the indirect form of speech.


He said to me,”I may not attend the meeting today.” He told me that he might not attend the meeting that day.
She said.”I might come late in the  evening.”She said that she might come late in the evening.

The Use of Must


‘Must’ shows meaning different than ‘should’. It gives the feeling of necessity, compulsion,conclusion or some result; as in the following sentences:

He must have reached his office  by now.

We must do our duty.

It is very late. We must go to bed.

The boss is in the office.We must attend to our job.

We must not meddle with others’ affairs.

We must respect our elders.


The Use of Ought to


‘Ought to ‘ shows meaning different than ‘should’ or ‘must’.

It gives the meaning of obligation or strong possibility. It is followed by ‘to’ as in the following sentences:

We ought to obey our elders.

We ought to do our duty.

He ought to get through the examination.

Our team ought to win the match.

We ought to help the poor.

The Use of 'Used to'
‘Used to’ is used in the past tense to express some action of habit (continuous) nature done in the past as is evident in the following sentences:

I used to play hockey when I was young.

He used to visit our house every Sunday.

John used to sell books in those days.

The merchant used to deal in tea.

‘Used to’ is also  in negative sentences.  e.g.

In childhood she used not to tell lies.

‘Used to’ is also  in interrogative sentences.  e.g.

Used she not to tell lies in her childhood?

‘Used to’ is also  in Passive voice.  e.g.

I am not used to tell lies. Boys are not used to doing hard work.

‘Used to’ is not used in present or future tenses.

The Use of 'Need'

Modal ‘Need’ is used in negative and interrogative sentences. Need is used to express ‘necessity’ and ‘compulsion’.  It is used to express ‘necessity’ and ‘obligation’  It is always used in Present Tense. For thirds person singular also ‘ Need’ and not ‘Needs’ is used.For example : You need not borrow money now. He need not go there. She need not go to office tomorrow.

Difference between 'Need not' and 'Must not'

‘Need not’ denotes ‘there is no requirement’    &  ‘ Must not’ denotes order forbidding something to do. e.g.

You need not return money to him now.  Meaning that you are not required to return money to him now.

You must not return money to him now. Meaning you are ordered not to return money to him now.

The Use of Dare

‘Dare’ is used as two types of verbs.

First ‘Dare’ means ‘to challenge’ It has three forms of verbs Dare- Dared- Dared.

‘Dare’  is used in all the three tenses. It is followed by ‘to’.

He dared to face the public opposing him. He dared not to contest her claim.

Secondly ‘Dare’  means ‘to challenge’. It has three forms of verbs  Dare- Durst- Durst

In this form ‘dare’ is used in negative and interrogative sentences only.In this for ‘to’ is not used with ‘Dare’.

He dares not go against Principal’s orders. How dares he cheat me?


Reflexive Verbs:


A verb which has a reflexive pronoun as its object, is called a Reflexive Verb; as

The boy hurt himself.                                       The boys cried themselves hoarse.

In the above sentences, the words in italics are Reflexive verbs and the words in italics after them are Reflexive objects.


Impersonal Verbs :

An impersonal Verb is one which has no real subject; as,

It rains. It hails. It is very fine.It is very pleasant.

In the aforesaid sentences,the subject ‘it’ may refer either to the sky or the weather.


Causative Verbs:

A verb in respect of which the work is got done instead of doing by the subject is called a causative verb ; as ,
He got her punished.
The subject  himself  ‘He’ is not doing the work but on his behalf someone else is doing the same.
Let him sit here.
Did you get the door opened?
Get this letter posted.
The mother made her do this work.

In the aforesaid sentences causative verbs are used.


OBJECTS :         Direct   &  Indirect

Sentences with two objects.
Some verbs govern two objects, one of which is a person and the other is a thing ; as
He gave me (person) a gift (thing).
She told her son (person) a story (thing).
She gave the child (person) a toy (thing).

The name of a person or animal is called the Indirect object and the name of the thing is called the Direct object.


Cognate Object.

Intransitive verbs sometimes take after them an object similar in meaning to the verb.Such an object is called Cognate Object.

She sighed a deep sigh.

The child sleeps a sound sleep.

They laughed a hearty laugh.

I dreamt a horrible dream.

The patient  died a natural death.

He fought a good fight.

The girls sang a beautiful song.

Boys ran a race.

He had to wait for the fruit to fructify.


The words – sighed,sleeps,laughed, dreamt,died,fought,sang & ran are verbs.
The words — sigh,sleep,laugh,dream,death,fight,song  & race are Cognate objects.


Some more Examples:

He did not object to the object.

The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

I was content to know the content of the message.

The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

The blessed virgin blessed her.

The king subjected the subject to his tyranny.




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