Glossary (Version 8.4)

An area of meaning having to do with possibility, probability, obligation and permission. In the following examples, the modal meanings are expressed by the auxiliary verbs ‘must’ and ‘may’:

  • Sue may have written the note. (possibility)
  • Sue must have written the note. (probability)
  • You must postpone the meeting. (obligation)
  • You may postpone the meeting. (permission)

Modality can also be expressed by several different kinds of words:

  • adverbs (for example, ‘possibly’, ‘necessarily’, ‘certainly’, ‘perhaps’)
  • adjectives (for example, ‘possible’, ‘probable’, ‘likely’, ‘necessary’)
  • nouns (for example, ‘possibility’, ‘necessity’, ‘obligation’)
  • modal verbs (for example, ‘permit’, ‘oblige’).