(redirected from modals)
Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia.

modal auxiliary verb

A modal auxiliary verb, often simply called a modal verb or even just a modal, is used to change the meaning of other verbs (commonly known as main verbs) by expressing modality—that is, asserting (or denying) possibility, likelihood, ability, permission, obligation, or future intention.
Modal verbs are defined by their inability to conjugate for tense and the third person singular (i.e., they do not take an “-s” at the end when he, she, or it is the subject), and they cannot form infinitives, past participles, or present participles. All modal auxiliary verbs are followed by a main verb in its base form (the infinitive without to); they can never be followed by other modal verbs, lone auxiliary verbs, or nouns.
As with the primary auxiliary verbs, modal verbs can be used with not to create negative sentences, and they can all invert with the subject to create interrogative sentences.
Continue reading...


1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a mode.
2. Grammar Of, relating to, or expressing the mood of a verb.
3. Music Of, relating to, characteristic of, or composed in any of the modes typical of medieval church music.
4. Philosophy Of or relating to mode without referring to substance.
5. Logic Expressing or characterized by modality.
6. Statistics Of or relating to a statistical mode or modes.

[Medieval Latin modālis, from Latin modus, measure; see med- in Indo-European roots.]

mod′al·ly adv.


1. of, relating to, or characteristic of mode or manner
2. (Grammar) grammar (of a verb form or auxiliary verb) expressing a distinction of mood, such as that between possibility and actuality. The modal auxiliaries in English include can, could, may, must, need, ought, shall, should, will, and would
3. (Philosophy) philosophy logic
a. qualifying or expressing a qualification of the truth of some statement, for example, as necessary or contingent
b. relating to analogous qualifications such as that of rules as obligatory or permissive
4. (Logic) philosophy logic
a. qualifying or expressing a qualification of the truth of some statement, for example, as necessary or contingent
b. relating to analogous qualifications such as that of rules as obligatory or permissive
5. (Philosophy) metaphysics of or relating to the form of a thing as opposed to its attributes, substance, etc
6. (Music, other) music of or relating to a mode
7. (Statistics) of or relating to a statistical mode
ˈmodally adv


(ˈmoʊd l)

1. of or pertaining to mode, manner, or form.
2. of or pertaining to a musical mode.
3. of, pertaining to, or expressing the mood of a verb.
4. exhibiting or expressing some phase of logical modality.
[1560–70; < Medieval Latin]
mod′al•ly, adv.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.modal - an auxiliary verb (such as `can' or `will') that is used to express modality
auxiliary verb - a verb that combines with another verb in a verb phrase to help form tense, mood, voice, or condition of the verb it combines with
Adj.1.modal - relating to or constituting the most frequent value in a distribution; "the modal age at which American novelists reach their peak is 30"
statistics - a branch of applied mathematics concerned with the collection and interpretation of quantitative data and the use of probability theory to estimate population parameters
normal - conforming with or constituting a norm or standard or level or type or social norm; not abnormal; "serve wine at normal room temperature"; "normal diplomatic relations"; "normal working hours"; "normal word order"; "normal curiosity"; "the normal course of events"
2.modal - of or relating to a musical modemodal - of or relating to a musical mode; especially written in an ecclesiastical mode
3.modal - relating to or expressing the mood of a verb; "modal auxiliary"


[ˈməʊdl] ADJmodal


adjmodal; modal verbModalverb nt


[ˈməʊdl] adjmodale
References in periodicals archive ?
Contrary to single modals in which only one modal auxiliary can be added in a Standard English sentence, multiple modality is a series of two or three adjacent modal expressions in a vernacular English syntax.
In the Phrase Structure Grammar Approach, the English modals are heads of a V projection, [.
9), the natural frequencies of the whole structure are obtained and the main modals, frequency responses, and kinematics status expressed by generalized coordinate q, are also obtained.
It is also argued by Ravelli (2000) that the degree of strength of the opinions is evident from the modals used.
Two significant elements seem to be relevant here: modals (modality) and speech acts.
These are modals where the modal base B supplied by the context is epistemic and thus the denotation of B is the set of worlds compatible with the relevant information state, without further restrictions (this is the meaning of 'bare' in this context), available to a contextually relevant group of agents.
The study, which analyzes every token of the modals and quasi- modals across the spoken and written data, comparatively explores dialectical variation, stylistic variation, and diachronic variation.
However, these disagreements largely reflect the fact that some authors define the class of modals semantically, while others define them as a syntactic subclass of helping verbs.
A discussion of the morphological and formal differences between English and German modals is followed by an analysis of 'semantic factors'.
Simon Blackburn, "Morals and Modals," in Fact, Science and Morality, ed.
We attached a flower called a Bittersweet Nightshade to the stinger of The Modal Shop's electrodynamic shaker with integrated amplifier, called the SmartShaker.
Este trabajo presenta el agnosticismo modal como un nuevo programa en metafisica modal.