Modal auxiliary verbs play an important role in spoken English. Modal verbs like can, could, may, might are usually used in various ways with different meanings. Like ‘Can’ be used to mean ability, asking for permission etc. Other modal auxiliary verbs have quite similar and different uses and meanings. In previous lesson on modal verbs, we discussed different uses of the modal verbs can and could. Today we are going to discuss different use of three modal verbs may, might and must. Practice regularly and use in daily conversation whenever the situation arises.
Different use of May : Like can, modal verb ‘may’ is also used to ask for permission or approval to do something. It can also mean ‘be allowed to’. But remember may is more formal than can. That means may is basically used in formal communication. Look at the following brief dialogue :
Boss : Who is knocking at the door?
An employee : Sir, this is karim from HR department. May I come in sir? (asking for permission)
Boss : Yes, you may. (giving permission)
An employee : How are you, sir?
Boss : Fine. Well, what is that in your hand?
An employee : Oh! Sir, this is a leave application of 5 days. I need to go home on urgent basis as my mother is ill. So I am asking for a leave.
Boss : why not? Give me the application. You may go now.
An employee : Thank you, sir. Well, may I bring something for you from village?
Boss : Oh! That would be fine. You may bring some vegetables and milk from your village as it’s been tough to find fresh food in the capital. See the other examples also :
A : May I ask one question?
B : Yes, you may.
c. You may take whatever you like. (here may means be allowed to)
d. You may stay at my home as many days as you want. Ok
To express possibility, one can use ‘may’ also like could. But remember may is more stronger than could. So when may is used, the possibility of something happening is more likely. Look at the examples below :
a. The sky is cloudy. It may rain tonight. (there’s a strong possibility of rain) . it could rain today (here could means the possibility of rain is very low)
b. This idea is unique and cost effective. It may be approved by the authority. (there’s a possibility)
Uses of Might (past form of may) : To express possibility, the modal ‘might’ can also be used. But note that might is lighter than may or it can be said that may is stronger than both might and could. In other words, both might and could carry the same weight. So you have to be careful in using them. Also note that in American English might is more common than may. Look at the sentence below :
a. My friend Mithila might come next week to visit us.
b. The sky is cloudy. It might rain today (possibility of rain is very low)
c. What he said might be true.
A brief conversation between two friends :
A : Hi! How are you, Karim? (talking over the phone)
B : fine. Thanks. Well, are you coming to visit us this week?
A : I might come. Well, what about your final exam?
B : It might start next week. I am taking preparation in full swing.
To get the differences between may, might and could, see the following examples carefully :
a. The meeting may be cancelled due to bad weather. (possibility of it is very high)
b. The meeting might be cancelled due to bad weather. (meaning possibility of it is very low)
c. The meeting could be cancelled due to bad weather. (meaning possibility of it is also very low)
Uses of must : The modal verb ‘must’ is mainly used to express that something is formally required or necessary or mandatory. look at the examples below :
a. You must complete the project by this week.
b. You must call your teacher that he doesn’t come today.
c. You must get at least 33 marks to pass the exam.
d. We must take care of our elder parents.
e. You must answer the question right away.
The modal auxiliary ‘Must’ also be used to show that something is very likely (that something may happen or the possibility of it very much high). See the examples :
a. It must be raining today. (meaning the possibility of rain is very high)
b. He must be joining us to the picnic.
c. Your son must be a genius.
d. I think he must be joking with you. so do not take it seriously. ok
e. The driver is pulling the bus very roughly. There must be an accident.
Note : There are several other modal verbs which will be discussed in the next lessons soon. Just keep browsing. Hope the next lessons also will be useful for your understanding of modal verbs. If you enjoy reading this article then please give a like and share it with friends. Good luck!