Enhancing Language Proficiency: Mastering Modal Verbs for IELTS

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  • By:CANAM Group
  • Updated On:Aug 16,2023 12:01 PM IST

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an English language proficiency test and is one of the most popular exams accepted by most colleges worldwide. Although there is no dedicated section mainly to test grammar, good scores still depend on the candidates’ knowledge of the fundamentals of grammar. Read the blog to understand the significance of understanding modal verbs for the IELTS exam. 

Enhancing Language .webp
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) tests the candidates' language abilities, so grammar plays a pivotal role. It is essential that the candidate appearing for the test must have a firm grasp of grammar and also understands the impact of modal verbs for IELTS. 

Modal verbs are used to express opinions or attitudes towards something. The verbs work as supportive or auxiliary verbs and do not represent the main action of the sentence. They contribute to conveying politeness. Proficiency in effectively using and comprehending Modal Verbs is essential for success in the IELTS exams. The same modal verb can be used to express different things. To excel in the IELTS exam, it is essential to invest time and effort into mastering modal verbs.

Rules of Modal Verbs

1. Modal verbs modify the main verb in a sentence.
2. Main verbs always appear before modal verbs, e.g., ' you can leave.'
3. The main verb following the modal verb is in the bare-infinitive form.
4. Modal verbs are contradicted by adding "not" between the modal and the main verb. 
5. Modal verbs can be used to modify non-modal auxiliary verbs that have an infinitive. For example: "I would have forgotten that."
6. "Could" and "would" are the only modal preterits used as past tenses of their present versions.

Most Common modal verbs for IELTS

• Will
• Would
• May
• Might
• Shall
• Should
• Must
• Can
• Could

The best way to understand the use of modal verbs is by looking at examples of modal verbs:

Modal VerbUsesExamples
WillFuture PossibilityI will study hard for exams to improve my scores
WouldUsed for unreal situationsIf i had more time, I would have travelled the whole world
MayPermission PossibilityMay i begin
It may rain tommorow, so don't forget to carry an umbrella
MightPossibilityI might move to another city in the future
Should AdvicePeople should fight for their rights
MustObligationWe must listen to expert advice
I can't work today
Can we work from home today?
Smoking can cause health-related issues
CouldPolite request

Could you explain that again, Please?

Also read: IELTS Exam Pattern

Semi Modal Verbs

Semi Modal verbs are alternative verbs and phrases that help overcome the limitations associated with modal verbs, such as defectiveness, absence of past tense, and inability to modify other modal verbs. By using semi-modals, we can expand the range of expression in English. 

Semi-Modal VerbsExplanation
To be able toAllows other tenses for modals can and could when talking about the ability.
Have to/ Have got toObligations and necessity from someone else’s point of view
Ought toSimilar in meaning to should. Native speakers use one or the other, to avoid repetition. 
Had better Alternate to must and have to but it usually considered much stronger, a threat.
Used to present, past or furture without change
Used toOvercomes the limitations that would can only be used for actions
DareIt is often used in a negative sentence. Dare is used as a main verb and a modal. It follows modal rules when used as a modal
NeedNeed can be used as a main or modal verb and usually follows main verb rules. It is considered a little old-fashioned and formal as a modal so isn’t commonly used. 

Modal Verbs Hedging

A hedge is a word or phrase that we use too often when we say or write. It helps to make statements less direct. It is commonly used in academic writing and formal conversation. It can further be used to indicate different levels of certainty. It involves modal verbs such as: 

• It could be that
• One could argue that 
• The answer may be that
• Maybe we used

Modal Verbs for IELTS in Reading and Listening sections 

The use of modal verbs in grammar for IELTS is essential, especially for the reading and listening components of the exam. Candidates with a better command of modal verbs in these sections are likely to score high. During speaking tests, the examiner might discuss topics beyond personal experiences; hence, the strategic use of modal verbs can be advantageous. Modal verbs can express likelihood or probability in specific situations. Incorporating modal verbs effectively in the candidates’ responses can enhance the sophistication of the statements and grab the examiner’s attention. 
Conclusion:  Modal verbs hold a pivotal role in effectively conveying ideas of obligation, recommendation, and more, making them a crucial component of language proficiency. Developing a strong command of modal verbs for IELTS will have a positive impact on performance across all sections of the exam. It enables candidates to express their thoughts with sophistication and precision, particularly during the exam. Furthermore, comprehending the nuances of modal verbs for IELTS facilitates communication with heightened accuracy and precision.

It empowers individuals to effectively articulate their ideas, express varying degrees of certainty or possibility, and adeptly respond to questions involving modal verbs. They are instrumental in enhancing performance in the IELTS exam, as they allow for sophisticated expression of ideas and effective communication. By understanding the subtleties of modal verbs, candidates can convey their thoughts with precision, navigate varying degrees of certainty, and confidently tackle questions involving these verbs.

Also read: Tenses for IELTS achieve high score in grammar


Modal verbs never change form and are always followed by an infinitive without ‘to’.
The most used modal verbs are “must,” “have to” and “have got to” show that something is not optional; it is necessary.
Modal verbs are always used alongside another verb and can never be used alone
Modal phrases are used to express the same things as modal but in a combination of auxiliary verbs
One must use ‘have to’ and ‘must’ to express duty or obligation
Modals of advice are a type of modal verbs used mainly to give or ask for advice.

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