Being Polite with Modals

What are modal verbs?

If you’re new to modals, click here for a quick explanation.

Modals are great for expressing opinions, and are crucial for expressing politeness in English.

They are special verbs that behave grammatically different from normal verbs. Here are some important differences.

Being polite with modal verbs
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1. Modal verbs do not take “-s” in the third person, like regular verbs.

can speak Chinese.
should be here by 9:00.

2. Use “not” between the modal verb and the main verb to make a statement negative.

should not be late.
might not come to the party.

Modals often indicate time, but their main job is to denote different aspects of meaning, in terms of directness and politeness.

Explanation: CAN / COULD


CAN is used both to ask for and give permission.
It is considered less formal and more direct.
You can leave when you have finished your assignment.
COULD is used to give permission and is used to make polite requests.Could you bring me a glass of wine?

Explanation: WILL / WOULD


WILL is used for the simple future and is a direct way to present a request.

When using WILL to make requests, the speaker is not inquiring about someone’s willingness to perform the request.

Person A: Will you bring me more butter?

Person B: Yes, I’ll bring it right away.

WOULD is used for polite requests and is also used as an inquiry as to someone’s willingness to do something.Person A: Would you bring me more butter?

Person B: Sure, I’d be happy to.

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