Difference Between Modal and Auxiliary Verbs

Key Difference – Modal vs Auxiliary Verbs 

 

Modal verbs and auxiliary verbs are two different types of verbs, and between which some differences can be highlighted. In any language, there are various verb forms. The modal and auxiliary verbs are two such categories. Modal verbs are also known as modal auxiliaries. These are a type of auxiliary verbs used when making requests, speaking of possibilities, etc. On the other hand, auxiliary verbs are also known as helping verbs. These usually add grammatical value to the sentence. One of the key differences between the two types of verbs is that while auxiliary verbs have to be conjugated, modal auxiliary verbs do not. This article attempts to highlight this difference in detail. First, let us begin with the modal verbs.

What are Modal Verbs?

Modal verbs also known as modal auxiliaries are a variety of auxiliaries. They can be used for various functions in the language. Here is a list of most commonly used modal verbs.

Modal verbs are used when making requests, asking for permission, speaking of ability, and also when speaking of possibilities as well.  The specialty in modal verbs is that they ate able to express mood and time.

Modal verbs are used along with the main verb in order to provide a complete meaning. Let us look at some example.

You can win the match if you try.

You should have asked me about it.

You ought to tell him the truth before he finds out.

Can I borrow your pen?

Will it be possible for me to reschedule?

Observe how the modal verbs have been used in each example. You will notice that by using the modal verb the speaker can alter the meaning of the entire sentence. This is the significance of modal verbs. Also, modal verbs do not have to be conjugated in accordance to the subject of the sentence. Whether it is plural or singular, it remains the same. Now, let us move on to auxiliary verbs.

Difference Between Modal and Auxiliary Verbs

Modal Verb Example: Can I borrow your pen?

What are Auxiliary Verbs?

Auxiliary verbs are also referred to as helping verbs. These verbs usually go along with the main verb, similar to modal verbs. However, at some situations, the auxiliary verbs can stand alone. An auxiliary verb usually functions within the sentence in order to make sense for the listener or reader and also to provide grammatical accuracy. The most commonly used auxiliary verbs are as follows.

  • Be
  • Do
  • Have

Auxiliary verbs allow the speaker to present an idea of the time in which the event occurred. For instance, when a person says, I was eating at the time he called. The speaker highlights that the action took place in the past. The auxiliary assists this function. It can also be used in order to express mood and voice as well.

Unlike in the case of modal verbs, auxiliary verbs have to be conjugated in accordance to the subject of the sentence. This can be understood through some examples.

Auxiliary Verb Be:

I am leaving now.

She is beautiful.

They were waiting for you.

He was late as usual.

Auxiliary Verb Do:

I don’t like her.

Does she know the truth?

Did he find the key?

Auxiliary Verb Have:

I have already watched it.

Have you been there?

She has completed the course.

I had no choice.

You will notice that in each sentence the auxiliary verb has to be conjugated. This highlights that there is a clear difference between modal and auxiliary verbs. This can be summarized as follows.

Modal vs Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary Verb Example: Did he find the key?

What is the Difference Between Modal and Auxiliary Verbs?

Definitions of Modal and Auxiliary Verbs:

Modal verbs: Modal verbs are used when making requests, speaking of possibilities, etc.

Auxiliary Verbs: Auxiliary verbs function as helping verbs.

Characteristics of Modal and Auxiliary Verbs:

Examples:

Modal verbs: Some examples for modal verbs are could, may, shall, will, would, should, ought to, need.

Auxiliary Verbs: Examples for auxiliary verbs are, do, have and be.

Conjugation:

Modal verbs: Modal verbs do not have to be conjugated.

Auxiliary Verbs: Auxiliary verbs have to be conjugated.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “03-BICcristal2008-03-26” by Trounce – Own work. [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

2. Standard lock key By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons