English Corner – The Oxford Comma

One of the key debates in English grammar is the role of the ‘serial’ comma or what’s otherwise popularly known as the ‘oxford’ comma. Depending on whom you might ask, there are constructive arguments to be made as to why the Oxford comma is useful or why it may not be necessary at all. It all depends upon your personal preference in using or not using this kind of comma but it is important to be aware of how it is used and why it is used. Having proper grammar is a key part into developing one’s fluency in English and the Oxford comma is often considered to be necessary to developing that skillset.

The Oxford or serial comma is the last comma for a list of things, people, or places. I’ve listed some examples as to make it clear what this kind of comma is. The Oxford comma is always the last comma and cannot be classified as a serial comma if there is only one comma in the sentence. There has to be at least two or more commas in the sentence to have an Oxford comma take its’ place as the serial comma.


  1. Please bring your books, pencils, and some paper to class tomorrow.
  2. Remind Jimmy, Patrick, and Tina that they have a Math test today.
  3. I had a salad, an appetizer, steak, and dessert at the restaurant tonight.

As you can see from the examples, the Oxford comma is highlighted and bolded as the last of the commas in the sentence whether the subject(s) are people, things, or places. The thing with the Oxford comma to understand is that it is not mandatory to use and that there is a lot of debate over whether it should be even used at all. The use of the Oxford comma is stylistic and different style guides differ in terms of their views on the serial comma.

For example, the AP style guide for English grammar does not mandate the use of the Oxford comma. However, this is in contrast to other style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style or The Elements of Style, which mandate and support the use of the Oxford comma. Certain professional organizations and agencies such as the United States Government Printing Office and the American Medical Association are supportive of the Oxford comma and encourage its’ use in their employees. Depending upon whom you work for or what line of work you’re in, views on the Oxford comma are likely to differ.

The debate over the Oxford comma extends to across the pond in the United Kingdom where there is also a divide over if it should be used at all. The Oxford Style Manual and the MHRA Style guide support the use of the Oxford comma whereas well-known national publications such as The Times Style Manual and The Economist Style Guide oppose the use of the Oxford comma. When it comes to the serial (Oxford) comma, British and American style guides both fall on opposing sides of this debate.

The main argument in support of using the Oxford comma is based around how it can clear up any ambiguity that comes with using ‘and’ instead of another comma to finish up the sentence. Supporters of the Oxford comma generally wants to make them understood without confusing the audience regardless if they’re writing a newspaper article or a research paper. I’ll give you an example to see how a sentence’s meaning could be ambiguous without the Oxford comma being used.


I love my siblings, George Clooney and Katy Perry.

Because there’s no Oxford comma here, it’s definitely strange if you read it out loud. Instead of the intended meaning being that you love your siblings separately and then you also love George Clooney and Katy Perry who are known celebrities, it comes off as being that your siblings are George Clooney (brother) and Katy Perry (sister) which is likely not true.

Let’s look at the same example with the Oxford comma implemented into the ending of the sentence.


I love my siblings, George Clooney, and Katy Perry.

From this re-written example with the Oxford comma included, it becomes more clearly that the subject known, as ‘I’ loves his or her siblings, George Clooney, and Katy Perry. It’s clearly distinguished in this case that the siblings are not the famous celebrities and that they are separate people. However, if you are really opposed to the Oxford comma, you can re-structure the sentence so that it can make sense grammatically and you won’t have to insert the serial comma for it to work.


I love George Clooney, Katy Perry and my siblings.

In this re-written example, you don’t need the Oxford comma to clear up the ambiguity.

Unlike other debates, this debate within English grammar about the Oxford comma will never end. There are always going to be supporters and opposition to its usage. However, it’s important that every English learner or teacher be adaptable to its usage or non-usage. If your student wants to use the Oxford comma, they should be able to because it’s apart of how they learned English grammar and they are technically allowed to do so. If the teacher doesn’t want to teach the Oxford comma to their English students, they also should not have to if they don’t believe in it. We can learn and teach English in a world where the Oxford comma can exist and not exist.


English Corner – Regular and Irregular Verbs

Having a deep knowledge of verbs is crucial in order to develop one’s English vocabulary especially when it comes to differentiating between their varied forms. In order to understand verbs in general, we need to know that there are both ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’ verbs depending upon how their past tense and past participle are formed. It can be difficult to distinguish between the two types, as there is no set rule on what specifically makes a verb regular while another one can be irregular. In the case of this particular grammar topic, memorization and practice will make you better at using the correct form of the verb and to have a list of the verbs to study whenever possible.

When it comes to regular verbs, you should know that most verbs are regular verbs and that it’s very easy to change them to the past tense or the past participle. You’re simply going to add ‘-d’ or ‘-ed’ to the end of the verb in order to make it regular in the past tense. A good example of a regular verb would be ‘to play.’ In order to keep ‘play’ as a regular in either the past tense or in the past participle, you would add ‘-ed’ to the end of this word to make it ‘played.’

Example: “I played soccer with my friend Jeremy last night.”

Sometimes, you don’t even need to add –ed to the end of the regular verb but rather just the letter ‘-d’ to make it grammatically correct. A good example of that would be for the verb ‘to dance.’ In this case, you could add ‘-d’ to ‘dance’ to make it ‘danced’ for it to be a regular verb in the past tense.

Example: “We danced as a couple for the first time on our wedding night.”

Short List of Regular Verbs











In each of these ten regular verbs, the simple past and the past participle are both the same and come with an –ed at the end of the verb. When it comes to a few select regular verbs, you may change a ‘y’ in the word for ‘-ied.’ For example, ‘try’ is the regular form of the verb in the present but to change it to the past tense, you need to drop the ‘y’ and add ‘ied’ to become ‘tried.’ Also, the regular verb ‘stop’ is an exception in that you add an additional ‘p’ after ‘stop’ as well as put on ‘-ed’ after the ‘p’ to create ‘stopped’ for the simple past and past participle. Regular verbs may have some variation to their formation but not as much when compared to irregular verbs.

Unfortunately, to the consternation to those English learners looking for an easy fix to the regular v. irregular verb debate, there is no magic wand or solution to know a rule to differentiate the two categories. It is known to most that there are over two hundred and fifty irregular verbs in the English language, which is a manageable amount for the average learner to remember since there are thousands of active verbs in the English language. While there is no strict formula or rule behind what separates a regular vs. an irregular verb, there are some fairly common forms of the irregular verb to be aware of.

Short List of Irregular Verbs












(Simple Present – Simple Past – Past Participle)

Break – Broke – Broken

Swim – Swam – Swum

Drive – Drove – Driven

Bear – Bore – Borne

Begin – Began – Begun


  1. He broke his guitar strings from jamming too hard.
  2. Ben drove all through the night to get to his brother’s soccer game today in Chicago.
  3. Jackie swam for over ten miles to reach the final line of the triathlon competition.
  4. The Russian army bore the mass majority of military casualties during World War II for the allies.
  5. We began our day with a hearty breakfast before beginning the climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

When it comes to irregular verbs, there are three types of verbs that we can remember in terms of formation.

The first type is when the verb is the same for the simple present, simple past, and even the past participle. (Examples: put, hit, read)

Put – put – put, hit – hit – hit, read – read – read

The second type is when the verb is the same for two of the three grammar forms. (Examples: sit, keep, lend)

Sit – sat – sat, keep – kept – kept, lend – lent – lent

The third and last type is when the verb is formed directly for each of the three grammar tenses. (Examples: know – grow – freeze)

Know – knew – known, grow – grew – grown, freeze – froze – frozen

Regular and irregular verbs can be even trickier when you realize that a verb can be both regular and irregular at the same time. Now, while that isn’t very common, it can happen every now and then so it’s important to familiarize yourself with those few examples that can be both regular and irregular as a verb.


Burn – burned – burned (regular)

Burn – burnt – burnt (irregular)

Learn – learned – learned (regular)

Learn – learnt – learnt (irregular)

Smell – smelled – smelled (regular)

Smell – smelt – smelt (irregular)

In the case of these verbs, the difference between what’s regular and irregular is the ending of the word. Instead of adding an ‘-ed’ to the simple past or the past participle, you can add an ‘-t’ to the verb to make it irregular.

Overall, the topic of regular and irregular verbs can cause some confusion to the average English learner. However, the best way to be better adept at this topic is to really study these grammar tables and to consult your dictionary as well. Building up your vocabulary by using these verbs in your sentences will help you better understand whether or not it is regular or irregular in terms of its’ usage in the past.

Having a list of both regular and irregular verbs is key in terms of mastering the usage of them. There are also only two hundred and fifty irregular verbs so with time and effort; you will be able to separate them out from the thousands of regular verbs in the English language. Patience, diligence, and a good dictionary will help you become proficient in learning and using both regular and irregular verbs.

English Corner – Question Words

Knowing how to pose a question in English is a key component towards developing proficiency in the language. You’ll be able to better get around a city, ask for directions, find nearby places, and ask for the meaning of something among other uses. When it comes to getting the specifics in characteristics, times, places, people, and things; having the ability to create a question is a key part towards getting the information you need to make a decision or understand something new.

In order to do that, we need to become familiar with the different options for question words in English. Question words mainly come at the beginning of a sentence and come in seven different forms although there are variations within each question word. For this article, we will be focusing on the seven main question words: ‘why, when, where, what, who, which, and how.’ Each of these seven question words are used under different circumstances and for different reasons. First, I’ll break down how we use each question word and also give examples about how to use each of these words in a basic sentence.


When you use the question word ‘why’, you’re trying to get a reason, a meaning, or an explanation from someone about something that happened. You are trying to get the purpose out of what has happened or occurred. ‘Why’ is most often used in the past tense and can be related to a prior event or procedure. If you’re looking to understand what the cause or reason for something is, you’ll want to use ‘why’ for this kind of question.


  • Why did you cheat on your final exam?
  • Why is he not telling the truth?
  • Why were you chewing gum during class?


For the question word ‘when,’ its usage centers around being able to know about a general or specific time and/or place. If you’re on public transportation, ‘when’ would definitely come in handy when you need to ask about the arrival or departure of a bus, plane, or train. Asking about a person’s preferences when it comes to how they manage their time is also useful for ‘when.’ The past, present, and future tenses can all be used with ‘when’ as well with no problem.


  • When are you and your friends going to the movies later?
  • When did your flight arrive from Istanbul?
  • When will the next train be leaving the station?


If you want to inquire specifically about places and locations, you’ll need to use the question word of ‘where.’ In order to get to know somebody better, you can also ask about where they have been to as well as where are they going. ‘Where’ is often focused about inquiring about places but it can be used to get to know somebody better as well.


  • Where is the bathroom?
  • Where did you go on vacation this year?
  • Where is your family from?


Out of all of the question words, the word ‘what’ has the most potential uses compared to the others. You can ask about people’s preferences such as their likes and dislikes. You can use ‘what’ in order to describe people, places, and things in greater detail. The physical and character descriptions are easy to make when you ask the question starting with ‘what.’ Lastly, one can inquire about the kind / type of people, place or thing by beginning the question with ‘what’ in order to get more details.


  • What does she do for fun on the weekend?
  • What were the Pyramids in Egypt like?
  • What does New York City look like?
  • What kind of person is Jack?


For the question word of ‘who’, you’re always going to be using it to ask about people. You’ll never be using ‘who’ to describe a thing or an object. With ‘who’, you’ll mainly be making object kind of questions as ‘who’ will form the subject and which will also form the answer to this question. The person’s name and/or their personal preferences will be highlighted in the answer to a ‘who’ question.


  • Who does Tina like?
  • Who is studying both Spanish and Portuguese?
  • Who went to the post office earlier today to send the package?


The last of the –Wh question words is ‘which.’ While it may be the least used of all English question words, its purpose is quite important. If you’re making a choice between a number of options such as people, things, or objects, you’re going to start this kind of question off with ‘which.’ Additionally, if you’re inquiring about the type or the kind of an object or thing, you will use ‘which’ to understand the specific model or function.


  • Which boy did Tim choose for his Kickball team?
  • Which Harry Potter book did you like the best?
  • Which kind of sports car do you want to buy?


Not every question word in the English language begins with –Wh and so last but not least, we have the important question word of ‘How.’ When you use this question word, you usually combine ‘How’ with an adjective right after to form the sentence. The main usage of ‘How’ is to ask about the specific characteristics, qualities, and quantities of persons, places, or things. When it comes to discussing a price, a length of time, a frequency of an event, or height / weight measurements; using ‘How’ would be your best bet.


  • How old are you?
  • How long was the drive from New York to California?
  • How much does this fruit cost?

In order to use question words, we first must understand and memorize why and how they are used. The functions of each question word are very important to know about. Without a base knowledge of their similarities and differences to each other, it will be much more difficult to form the correct question. These seven question words in English have a lot of overlap but it’s important to know how they are unique as well as how they can best be used to make sure you’re understood.

English Corner – ‘Will’ and ‘Going To’

The phrases ‘will’ and ‘going to’ are very commonly used to express oneself in the future tense. It’s important however to know the difference in how they are used and under what circumstances should they be applied.

If you’re making a quick decision about something or someone, you’re going to use ‘will’ instead of the alternative of ‘going to.’ Also if you’re offering to help or assist someone, then you would use ‘will’ as well. When it comes to making a promise or a threat, ‘will’ is what you should be using before the verb. Lastly, ‘will’ is also used when you want to refuse a gesture or a gift from somebody. The five instances of making a quick decision, offering something, making a promise and/or threat, and refusing a gesture or a gift will all use ‘will’ when it comes to the future tense.


1.) I will buy you dinner tomorrow night.

2.) He will help you get out of the car.

3.) She will promise us to watch the dog while we go out to brunch.

4.) If they don’t stop marching, we will shut down the bridge to stop them.

5.) They won’t help us if we are not willing to cooperate with them.

When it comes to using ‘going to’, the circumstances of usage are not as frequent when compared to using ‘will’ for the future tense. When ‘going to’ is placed in a sentence, it’s often for discussing a prior plan that you have confirmed with friends, family, or other people in your life and is a definitive plan. When something is likely to happen and the result is inevitable based on the current evidence, you would also use ‘going to’ to describe the outcome. The last instance where you would use ‘going to’ over ‘will’ is when something imminent is about to happen and there’s not much time left until it occurs such as an event.


1.) I’m going out dancing with my best friends tonight at the Salsa club in Havana.

2.) New England is likely going to win this football game. They’re up by 21 points at halftime.

3.) The race is going to start immediately after the gun fires in the air.

The one instance where ‘will’ and ‘going to’ overlap with each other in terms of usage deals with making predictions that are likely to happen in the future. In this regard, both ‘going to’ and ‘will’ are equal and both create the same kind of meaning in the sentence.


1.) I think it’s going to rain tomorrow evening in Seattle.

2.) I think it will rain tomorrow evening in Seattle.

As you can see in this example above, there is no discernible difference between these two sentences in terms of meaning even though they use ‘going to’ or ‘will’ interchangeably without any issues. If a student of the English language is to master the future tense in grammar, he or she will need to know the differences and similarities between the phrases ‘will’ and ‘going to.’ They can be applied in a number of different ways so it’s important to study the examples above and also think about their reasons for being used in the future tense.

English Corner – Demonstratives

When it comes to discussing one’s distance from objects, things, or other people, it’s necessary to master the grammatical concept of demonstratives. To describe the physical distance of something or someone to another is a key aspect of demonstratives. Depending if the speaker is near or far from the other object, person, place or thing, the demonstrative will change to reflect that change in closeness.

A key aspect of demonstratives to remember is that they can either be adverbs or pronouns for both singular and plural nouns. You can use demonstratives as well to describe both countable and uncountable nouns. In addition, when it comes to discussing actual events, you would use ‘near’ forms of the demonstrative to refer to the present while ‘far’ forms of the demonstrative would refer to the past.

For the demonstrative adverbs, the word ‘here’ refers to the subject who is close by and near to the object, thing, or person. For the opposite, the adverb ‘there’ refers to the subject that is far away from the object, thing, or person.

Here are some examples of demonstrative adverbs for near / far usage:

  • I am here at the police station.
  • They are here for the Science exam.
  • She was there for the graduation ceremony.
  • We will be there at 9 o’clock.

Based on these examples, it’s important to remember that the adverb ‘here’ for near situations should be used in the present tense whereas for far situations, ‘there’ is heavily used and often with either the past or future tenses.

As mentioned before, if you are near to an object, thing, or person and you’re looking to use a demonstrative pronoun, you’ll want to use the words of ‘this’ or ‘these’ depending upon if its’ with a singular, uncountable noun or with plural, countable nouns. The demonstrative ‘this’ or ‘that’ would be used with singular and uncountable nouns while ‘these’ or ‘those’ would be used with plural and countable nouns.

Here are some examples of how ‘this’ and ‘these’ would be used in sentences to describe objects, things, or people that are close in distance to the subject:

  • This cup is for my tea.
  • Is this your jacket?
  • Where have you been traveling to these days?
  • These bananas are delicious.
  • This is my friend, Dan.

As you can see from these examples, these objects or things are close to the subject rather than far away in distance. You can also see how the demonstrative ‘this’ is used for singular nouns while the pronoun ‘these’ are being used with plural nouns.

If the opposite occurs and you or another subject in your sentence is far away in distance from another, person, place or thing, you’re going to want to use the demonstratives ‘that’ or ‘those.’

Here are some examples of how ‘that’ and ‘those’ would be used in sentences to describe objects, things, or people that are far in distance to the subject:

  • What are those men doing over there?
  • That book in my shelf was really enjoyable.
  • That printer has a paper jam that needs to be fixed.
  • Those boys are heading off to play in the park.
  • Those tires are flat. They need air.

It’s clear from those examples above that those objects or things are considered to be far away from the subject of the sentence. You can also see how the demonstrative ‘that’ is used for singular nouns while the pronoun ‘those’ are being used with plural nouns.

When it comes to placing a demonstrative like ‘that’, ‘this’, ‘these’, ‘those’ in a sentence, you should remember that those pronouns can be placed before the noun or adjective that modifies the noun even if there is more than one noun in the same sentence.


  • Those hungry people need to eat soon.
  • These tired citizens are waiting long hours in the unemployment line.

Another way to use the demonstrative is that it can be placed before any number by itself when the noun is understood within the context of a larger paragraph.


  • These four need to be fixed.
  • That one gave me some trouble.

Sometimes, a demonstrative pronoun or adverb can be used by itself in a sentence without a noun even being present after the demonstrative. The noun can be understood from the context of a previous sentence or larger paragraph making the demonstrative clear the only necessary subject to have.


  • This was not very fair to me.
  • That is really cool.
  • Those were really interesting.
  • What was the issue with these?

As with many other grammatical concepts in English, there are some rules and circumstances that have to be remembered in order to develop both spoken and written fluency. In order to become comfortable with demonstratives, study the examples, create sentences of your own, and re-read this article to remember the rules of usage.

English Corner – More Fun with Modals

In the last ‘English Corner’ post, I focused on introducing the topic of modals by beginning with ‘modals of ability.’ As I mentioned previously, there are different types of modals in the English language. We have already covered the modals of ability and permission so now this article will concentrate on those modals that deal with making suggestions, having obligations, seeking advice, going through with a decision, and getting an invitation. The modal verbs of must, shall, should, will, would are going to be highlighted in this article in terms of when to use them in sentences and how those sentences are to be structured.

For making suggestions, the modal verb of ‘shall’ can be used to offer up something to someone or to give advice to them. You can also use this auxiliary verb in the future tense if you plan on doing some action decisively. The modal ‘shall’ can be used both in the positive for and also be posed as a question.


1) Shall I pick you up from your house at 8 pm tonight?

2) I shall travel to Morocco and Brazil in 2018.

Once again, it should be noted that ‘shall’ like other modals is to be used as an auxiliary verb in the sentence and often goes before the main verb like ‘travel’ or ‘pick up.’

When it comes to giving out advice or seeking it from somebody else, the modal verb of ‘should’ will come in handy for English learners. You can use ‘should’ at both the beginning of a sentence if it’s in the question form and towards the middle of the sentence after the subject word if you’re using it in the positive form. Should can also be used negatively when you change the word to ‘shouldn’t’ to express that modal in its’ negative form.


1.) You should go to the doctor since you have a high fever.

2.) Should we wait for the presentation to end before leaving here?

3.) They shouldn’t have been rude to the doctor yesterday.

When you have an obligation that you simply can’t get out of or a duty to fulfill that cannot be delayed, the modal verb of ‘must’ is key to put in your sentences. Similar to other modal verbs, it is auxiliary and comes before the main verb in the sentence structure. You can also use ‘must’ in the form of a question as well.


1.) He must do his homework by tomorrow.

2.) Must I bear this burden alone?

When it comes to making a firm decision to be carried out in the future, choosing the modal word of ‘will’ is a good choice. It is a definite verb that can be used as a question, a positive and a negative. To create the negative form, you simply have to change ‘will’ to ‘won’t’ after conjugating ‘will’ and ‘not’ together to form ‘won’t. When you use ‘will’, you’re not just making a decision but you’re also making a promise to someone that you shouldn’t break.


  1. I will play football with you guys this weekend.
  2. Won’t you join us for dinner tonight?
  3. She will be so tired from the party that she won’t be able to study later.

As shown above in the third example, you can use both the positive and negative form of the modal ‘will’ in the same sentence, and the same modal can be used more than once in the same sentence too.

For the last modal ‘would’, you are going to want to use this one when it comes to seeking permission, giving a request, or extending an invitation to somebody. There are a couple of different uses for this last main modal verb but it’s important to keep in mind that it can be used in all forms including positive, negative, and question. As with the other modals, it is an auxiliary verb that will always come before the main verb in the sentence.


  1. Would you join me at the birthday party Friday night?
  2. I would like to go home now if that is fine with you.
  3. We wouldn’t climb Mount Everest because it is so dangerous.

The modal verbs of must, shall, should, will, would are focused on the future tense and are very strong in terms of making suggestions or going through with a decision. In total, you now have a basis of understanding the nine main modal verbs. There are others in the English language but these nine words ‘can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would’ come up the most and are the most important to master.

English Corner – Introduction to Modals

There are many different kinds of modals to study but in this ‘English Corner’ blog post, we’re going to start out with an introduction dealing with the modals of ability. Modals of ability are the most common and the most important to master firstly. Modals are verbs usually and the ones that I am going to be focused on in this article are can, could, be able to, may, might.

Modal verbs act as auxiliary verbs in your average sentence and can express different ideas. These ideas include expressing one’s ability, one’s possibility, and sometimes necessity. Modal verbs often have more than one meaning and can be significant in a variety of ways. A simple form of a verb always follows a modal verb in a regular sentence as well.


  • Ben can do his homework.

The modal verb ‘can’ is followed by the simple form of the verb ‘to do’ followed by the object part, which refers to his homework.

An Introduction to Modals can be broken down into three separate parts: modals for ability, modals for possibility, and modals for permission. Each type of modals is unique in their own way but they each help to express oneself in some form or another.

For ‘Modals of Ability’, you can express your own ability or that of someone else by using the words ‘can, be able to, could’ in order to highlight your ability to do something.

Present Ability: I can speak three languages.

Negative Form: I cannot read this book.

Past Ability: Jack could play on the swings when he was a child but not anymore.

Negative Past Ability: Jane couldn’t go to the dance last night because she was sick.

In any regular sentence, the verb after the modal ‘can, could, be able to’ is always in the simple form and always follows the auxiliary (modal) verb. It’s important to note that the simple verb after the modal verb never changes either.


-Ben can doing his homework. X

-Ben can to do his homework. X

-Ben can did his homework. X

All of these examples listed above give us the understanding we need to see that the simple form of the verb such as ‘to do’ never changes from its’ original intention. ‘Ben can do his homework’ is the only correct answer in this case.

In order to turn the ability modal into a question, it’s also quite easy to do. The form of the sentence should look like ‘modal verb + subject + main verb + object…? For any of the ability modals whether it’s can, could, etc., you can use them in the form of a question.


  1. Can she play the flute?
  2. Could you go to the store to pick up some fruit?
  3. Are you able to do your homework tonight?

‘Able to’ is an exception in that as a modal of ability verb, the structure of the question form looks like: ‘to be’ + subject + able to + main verb + object…?’

For Modals of Possibility, it’s important to understand how to express ‘possibility’ in a sentence through showing what’s possible and what’s not possible for someone or something. The modals of possibility include ‘may, might, and could’ now and in the future. All of these three modals have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably regardless of the type of sentence.


  • I might be late to the business meeting tomorrow.
  • You may want to re-take the exam next year.
  • You could get into college if you study harder.

Possibility cannot be expressed for the past but only for the present and the future when it comes to grammar.

For ‘Modals of Permission’, you can express ways to ask for or to give permission in a regular sentence. In order to create this modal sentence, we need to use the modals of ‘may, could, and can’, which are also apart of permission and ability modals. Permission modals are very polite and formal so it’s important to know how to write and verbally use them correctly in a sentence.


  • May I go to the bathroom please?
  • Could I borrow your lawnmower today?
  • Can he have the last piece of chocolate cake?

For the main verb that comes after the subject and before the modal verb, it’s always going to be in its’ regular, simple form which never changes. When it comes to modals of permission, it’s important to remember that using ‘may’ especially at the beginning of the sentence is the most formal of the three options. Also, if someone were to answer you to grant that permission so you can go to the bathroom or to use your lawnmower, you can answer with:

-Yes, you may or No, you may not.

There’s also the possible positive or negative response to the modal question with ‘Yes, you can’ or ‘No, you can’t.’

While not the most popular grammar topic, there are many kinds of modals and knowing some of them especially those modals concerning permission, ability, and possibility is key to improving your English proficiency. This article is simply an introduction to modals and in the coming weeks and months; I hope to highlight other types of modals that are likely to come up in your grammar studies. “You can do it!”