Modal auxiliary verbs

Hi Everyone, Dr TEFL with all of you once again. Today we will look at modal auxiliary verbs.

It is almost the first day of March. Spring WILL soon be in full bloom, and I look at life with optimism because I know that things CAN only get better.

My EFL teaching friends, I know you are all eager to travel again, and I hear you!

I am a travel buff myself, and I miss the cultures, the colours, the flavours of countries that I can easily visit with my TEFL and TESOL credentials.

Add those years of EFL/ESL teaching experience, and if you’re like me, you WOULD have worked and lived in 7, 8, maybe ten countries before you turn 30!

Getting that dream EFL job requires EFL teaching skills, experience, and knowledge. Throw in some excellent people skills, and you are set; the world is your oyster!

Today, we will talk about one of my faves – Modal verbs.

Teaching activities for modal auxiliary verbs

Resources required: The modal verbs song. (An EBC TEFL graduate and later an EBC trainer, Barbara Simpson, made this song.) Thanks, Barb, for this excellent teaching material! EBC has provided you with the lyrics for this song; you now put in your melody or use it as a poem.

English level: B1 – B2

Objective: Practising the modal auxiliary verbs in a fun and original way, e.g. Will, Would, Can, Could.


Sometimes traditional teaching resources like course books can be dull or old-fashioned.

If you have the imagination and are creative, you can easily make your materials and surprise your students. It is always a great idea to present rather complicated language concepts in a fun and light-hearted way or even in an entertaining context.

Activity 1. The WILL, WOULD, CAN, COULD song

Will, Would, Can and Could

Came to call one day

I looked out, and there they were

Each in their specific way.


WILL was full of promises

And good intentions too,

His typical behaviour

Was to ask what you would have him do.


WOULD was far more formal,

Stuck somewhere in the past,

He said that he was ready

For a polite and formal request.


Now CAN was very self-assured,

Such ability had she,

Checking all the normal rules

And making plans, you see.


COULD was much less definite,

A little vague, I’d say,

But always very, very polite,

Even on a weaker day.


So COULD and WOULD went on their way

Polite and formal throughout the day,

While WILL was sure to give commands,

And CAN, well CAN expressed

Open disbelief at the endless possibilities.

Have your students read the song silently and individually. Ask them if there are words/expressions they would need to have explained.

Then you read the song aloud for the students, making sure the rhythm gets clear.

Finally, it would help if everybody read the song out together.

Activity 2. The grammar rules!

Tell the students to pair up and go through the song lyrics once more.

They must find out the grammar rules and the meaning/use of the four modal verbs.

When they have finished, you should review each pair’s work and correct it if necessary.

Activity 3. Example sentences

Tell the students to find another partner and make two sentences using the four modal verbs.

Give them a few minutes and then go round each pair in turn and read out and explain their sentences.

Was your class a success?

If all has gone well, your students SHOULD be happy they improved their modal auxiliary verb knowledge.

Versión en español: Enseñanza de verbos auxiliares modales – Dr TEFL Guides