Think of modal as relating to some "mode," or form. A modal verb is a helper that gives additional information about the verb that follows it, and includes such words as "can," "will," "should," and "may," among others.

The English word modal has long been used as a term in logic and statistics, such as "modal values." Toward the end of that century, the term was used in music, suggesting a use of harmonies and melodies based on other than the standard major and minor scales, in a style found in medieval liturgical music. Modal logic, in philosophy, is a supposition or conclusion based on the ideas of probability and necessity rather than concrete fact.

Definitions of modal
  1. adjective
    relating to or expressing the mood of a verb
    modal auxiliary”
  2. noun
    an auxiliary verb (such as `can' or `will') that is used to express modality
    synonyms: modal auxiliary, modal auxiliary verb, modal verb
    see moresee less
    type of:
    auxiliary verb
    a verb that combines with another verb in a verb phrase to help form tense, mood, voice, or condition of the verb it combines with
  3. adjective
    of or relating to a musical mode; especially written in an ecclesiastical mode
  4. adjective
    relating to or constituting the most frequent value in a distribution
    “the modal age at which American novelists reach their peak is 30”
    synonyms: average
    conforming with or constituting a norm or standard or level or type or social norm; not abnormal
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week