What is a modal verb?

The words "modal verbs" at the top. Then below are the following words set in white circles against a pink background: may, should, will, must, can, would, might.

These are examples of modal verbs.

Modal verbs are verbs used to express ability, obligation, permission, or possibility. Common modal verbs include can, might, may, must, will, would, and should. They are a type of auxiliary verb (otherwise known as a “helping verb”), which means they have to be paired with a main verb to work. For example, in the sentence “I can park the car here,” park is the main verb and can is the modal verb paired with it. Here are some examples of modal verbs in action:

  • Can can mean either to express ability or to ask permission.
    • I can go to the store later.
    • Can I use the car today?
  • May can mean either to express possibility or to ask permission.
    • I may talk to him tomorrow.
    • May I go to the bathroom?
  • Must can mean either to express obligation or to express strong belief.
    • She must tell the truth.
    • He must be almost finished with the project by now.
  • Should means to give advice.
    • He should buy the red sweater.
  • Would means to request or offer, and it can also be used in if sentences.
    • Would you mind getting the door for me?
    • If I were her, I would.

Modal verbs don’t change their form, and they have no infinitive (the verb with the word “to” in front of it, as in to sleep or to walk) or participle (a form of a verb similar to an adjective or adverb that functions as an adjective, as in swimming or sitting).

Maud Grauer is an editor and content creator for Dot and Dash, LLC.  

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Gray vs. grey

Gray and grey are both correct spellings for that almost-black color, but choosing which to use depends on where you live.

If you are in the United States, gray is more common. If you are in another English-speaking country, grey is preferred.

You can remember this by noting the A and the E in the words:

In America, use grAy.
In England, use grEy.

(But, of course, don’t forget Scotland, Ireland, Australia, and Canada. They use grey too.)

Back to basics: synonym and antonym


from deviantart.com

from deviantart.com

Today’s post is about synonyms and antonyms. Synonyms are words that have the same meaning. Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings.

Here are synonyms for the word happy: cheerful, delighted, ecstatic, glad, jolly.
Here are antonyms for the word happy: sad, depressed, morose, miserable.

Note that in the first list, all of the words have the same meaning as happy. In the second list, all the words have the opposite meaning as happy.

If a word is a synonym, we can plug it into a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. Let’s remove the word happy from the sentence below and replace it with glad.

Sentence 1: Fritz was happy that he ate three hot dogs.
Sentence 2: Fritz was glad that he ate three hot dogs.

Sentence 2 has the same meaning as sentence 1 because we replaced happy with its synonym glad.

Now let’s remove the word happy and replace it with its antonym depressed.

Sentence 1: Fritz was happy that he ate three hot dogs.
Sentence 2: Fritz was depressed that he ate three hot dogs.

This time, sentence 2 has the opposite meaning as sentence 1 because we replaced happy with an antonym.

A trick to remembering the definitions of synonym and antonym is this: Synonym means same. And both words start with the letter S. So think synonym = same. Then you’ll remember automatically that antonym is the opposite.

Below are lists of words. Decide if each is a list of synonyms or antonyms.

1. sick: diseased, ill, unwell, queasy, unhealthy, ailing
2. teach: explain, demonstrate, instruct, train, tutor, show
3. hungry: full, satisfied, stuffed, satiated
4: finish: start, commence, begin, initiate
5: smart: astute, brainy, clever, wise, bright

Answers: 1) synonyms 2) synonyms 3) antonyms 4) antonyms 5) synonyms