9. May I have a diet soda?
Modal Verbs I

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Modal verbs: Can, Could, May, Might

Modal verbs are structures that modify the meaning of main verbs. They have the same form for all persons and numbers.

We learned our first modal verb (Can) in the section Beginner, in the lesson Brian can't draw, but he can paint.

Now, we are going to learn several new modal verbs: could, may and might. We will learn three other ones in the next lesson.

Can & Could

We use the modals can and could in two main situations:

1. When we express ability.

I can ride the bike.
I could ride the bike when I was six.

In this case, could is the past form of can.

2. When we ask for permission.

Can I open the window?
Could I open the window?

In this case, could is more polite than can.

May & Might

We use may and might in two main situations.

1. When we express probability.

They may come tomorrow.
They might come tomorrow.

Listen to the audio tutorial for more information.

2. When we ask for permission.

May I borrow your bicycle?
Might I take you out for a coffee?

In this case, might is more polite than may.

Affirmative/Interrogative/Negative

I can ride the bike.Can I ride the bike?I can not (can't) ride the bike.
I could ride the bike.Could I ride the bike?I could not (couldn't) ride the bike.

They may come tomorrow.May they come tomorrow?They may not come tomorrow.
They might come tomorrow.Might they come tomorrow?They might not come tomorrow.