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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.
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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 ?
In the last ten years there has been a surge of interest in non-modal analysis applied to canonical problems in fundamental fluid mechanics.
Rather than developing rigorous analytical criteria based on, to name a few, interval cycles, transpositional and inversional symmetry, and referential collections, along with their subset structures, in order to dig more deeply into how Messiaen's modal and non-modal harmonies work, Dingle writes about triadic post-tonality in vague terms and offers, in the final analysis, trivial observations about the composer's harmonic practice.
He argues that the necessitarian can do at least as well as the most tenable best-system type approach on this front: the advocate of a super-grounded best-system approach must accept either that there is no difference in the actual world between regularities born of metaphysical and physical necessity, or that there are non-modal essential properties which ground such differences.
Under non-modal (or multimodal) propagation, phase velocities in different conductors differ from each other in the MCML as a result of the superposition of the propagating modes.
The fourth chapter of the book briefly describes the use of infinitives absolute in non-modal contexts, and draws an important distinction between the effect of the paronomastic infinitive in modal versus non-modal contexts: whereas in modal contexts the paronomastic construction emphasizes modality, in non-modal contexts it serves as "adverbial intensification of the verbal idea" (p.

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