Modality: introduction

Modality is about a speaker’s or a writer’s attitude towards the world. A speaker or writer can express certainty, possibility, willingness, obligation, necessity and ability by using modal words and expressions.

Speakers often have different opinions about the same thing.

These speakers are looking at the same thing.

Here are the main verbs we use to express modal meanings:

Core modal verbs: can, could, may, might, will, shall, would, should, must

Semi-modals: dare, need, ought to, used to

Other verbs with modal meanings: have (got) to, be going to and be able to

Modal words and expressions

There are a number of other words and expressions in English, apart from the main modal verbs, which also express modal meanings.

Here are some examples:

modal form



There is a possibility of snow this evening.


It’s clear that the Prime Minister is worried about education.


I’m certainly not fed up with it.

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