Topic: Modal verbs

Modality is an area of meaning concerned with what is possible, necessary, desirable and so on: for example, what might happen or what somebody must or should do. These resources look at how such meanings are expressed by the modal auxiliary verbs and other forms.

Certainty and uncertainty

Sometimes we make confident statements, while at other times we want to express some uncertainty. In this resource we will explore the expression of certainty and uncertainty. This is one of the areas of meaning we call modality.

Certainty and uncertainty: Activity 1

Imagine that you are not sure about the following statements, and find ways to make them sound less certain.Write three different versions for each example.

  1. Amy has gone home.
  2. I will definitely have the essay written by tomorrow.
  3. This disease is caused by a virus.
  4. The British team will win this match easily.

Certainty and uncertainty: Activity 2

Rank the given examples in order from most certain to most uncertain, with most certain at the top and most uncertain at the bottom. Identify the words in the examples that help to convey certainty or uncertainty. Are they modal auxiliary verbs? Adverbs? Main verbs? What conclusions can you make about the way that individual word choices affect the certainty of expressions?

This may not be easy, and some examples may be debatable!

Compare your rankings with somebody else. Are there any areas of disagreement?


Verbs in persuasive language

In this lesson, students will analyse persuasive language in a charity appeal, and then write their own charity appeal. There is a particular focus on the way modal auxiliary verbs can be used to persuade.


  • Identify modal auxiliary verbs.
  • Analyse persuasive language.
  • Practise writing persuasively.

Lesson Plan

Activity 1

Verbs in persuasive language: Activity 1

Activity 1

Identify the modal verbs in this extract by clicking on them, then check your score at the end.

Verbs in persuasive language: Activity 3

Activity 3

Write your own charity appeal, using the source material below. It is a statement from a charity about their aims and methods. Make use of a range of persuasive devices, including modal verbs.

The "Live Not Exist" charity has been set up with the following key aims:

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the modal verbs

Find the modal verbs in a range of examples

Identify the modal verbs in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Modal verbs, adverb phrases, and uncertainty

Read each of the following examples carefully. Indicate whether uncertainty is expressed using a modal verb or an adverb phrase:


When we talk (or write), we often make statements of fact about the world: It's hot today; I'm hungry; Tomorrow is my birthday. However, this is not always the case.

We often talk about what is possible or necessary: for example, what might happen or what somebody must do. This kind of meaning is called modality.

Verbs: Modal verbs

Modal auxiliary verbs (or modals for short), as the name suggests, are a kind of auxiliary verb. They have most of the attributes of auxiliary verbs. They are a closed class that is identifiable as a short list, and they convey particular types of meaning.

Here is a table which lists the most important modal verbs (also called the core modals). It shows most of them in pairs as present and past tense forms, which makes them easier to remember.


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