Modals for Beginners

Modals find their way into grammar lessons at all stages of learning English. At the lower levels, it’s wise to present modal verbs in small doses, allowing time for practice and feedback. With one of my beginners, Natasha, I decided to teach “Would you like…?” for polite requests and invitations. (See beginner video lesson.) That single use of would provided us with enough to cover in a whole lesson by the time we addressed meaning, use, and pronunciation. We practiced questions and responses.

With my high beginner students, Flavia and Andreia, my goal is to cover other common uses of modals, namely can and could for ability, should for advice, and may and might for possibilities. (See the Basic English playlist.) If you have lower level students and your goals align with mine, check out the following handouts. They’re short speaking tasks that can easily be done in pairs, but other formats are possible. My collections of easily understandable photos will be a time-saver for you when you’re ready to practice these modals.

– Expressing ability: Can and Can’t_basic grammar_handout
– Giving advice: Should_basic grammar_handout
– Stating possibilities: May and Might_basic grammar_handout

Featured photo by qimono. Retrieved from

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