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’).