Modal verbs are verbs used to modify or change other verbs to show such things as ability, permission, or necessity.
For example: You can eat, I must stay.
In German, modal verbs are very similar to those in English; as they are generally used together with a main verb in its infinitive form. However, there is one main difference between both languages. In English, the modal verb and the main verb stay together; whereas in German, the modal verb and the main verb are separated; as the main verb goes to the end of the sentence.
There are six modal verbs in German,
all having conjugation that is different than regular German verbs (discussed in an earlier lesson).
The six German modal verbs are: dürfen, können, mögen, müssen, sollen, and wollen.
|Conjugation of dürfen|
Dürfen is used to express permission:
When used with 'nicht', dürfen conveys the meaning of something one must not do.
|Conjugation of können|
Können means 'can' or 'to be able to':
It can also be used to express possibility:
|Conjugation of müssen|
Müssen means 'to have to' or 'must' or 'need to':
When used with 'nicht', it doesn't convey the meaning of prohibition as in English, but means 'do not have to' (remember that dürfen + nicht is used to say 'must not').
|Conjugation of sollen|
Sollen means 'to be supposed to' or 'should' or 'ought to':
|Conjugation of wollen|
Wollen usually expresses an intention or desire, equivilant to the English 'to want to':
Take note not to use the verb in the sense of the English verb 'will' to form the future tense. This requires another verb in German ('werden').
|Conjugation of mögen/möchten|
The modal verb mögen means 'to like' and is often used with reference to people, food, or places.
However, the verb is most oftenly used in its subjunctive form, möchten, which means 'would like to'.
As with 'mögen', 'möchten' could also be used on its own, without a second verb.
When a modal verb is used with a separable one, the separable verb stays together and goes to the end of the sentance.
Now you nearly know everything about German verbs in the present tense,
only reflexive verbs are left for another lesson in a later unit.
Using very little vocabulary, you should be able to form complete German sentances by now.