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Writers' Center

Eastern Washington University

Grammar, Punctuation, and Sentences

Modals

Modals are helping verbs (meaning they precede other verbs) used to indicate permission, possibility, obligation, advice, ability, prohibition, requests, and preference.

So when might you use them in academic writing? They often appear in research papers to make a suggestion, prediction, or ask a question.

Common modal verbs:

Can
Could
May
Might
Must

Ought to
Shall
Should
Will
Would

Permission: Can I take your sister to the dance?

Possibility: We might go to a movie tonight if you’re interested in coming along.

Obligation: Researchers must further review the study.