• Home
  • |
  • Blog
  • |
  • How to Use Modal Verbs for Business

Welcome back to The Art of Business English. This week I am launching grammar day. Whenever you see “grammar day” in your podcast feed, then you will know that this week’s episode will be dedicated to a grammar topic.

Before I start, I just wanted to let you know that I have a new online course on business expressions. We will be launching the course in March of 2022, and I have a pre-release offer for all of my AOBE listeners. You can sign up now and get a massive 50% discount off the course and be the first to gain access to it when it goes live.

Head over to www.theartofbusinessenglish.com/be22 to enrol now at this listener only price. Once the course is launched this special price will disappear forever.

On this course, we will be covering 14 lessons full of business expressions for different areas of business, such as negotiations and effective communication. Each lesson is professionally produced, and includes online quizzes to help you practice your knowledge.

Don’t miss out on this introductory offer!

Now, onto this week's episode where we are going to review modal verbs and how to use them in order to improve your communication skills in a business context.

Modal verbs are crucial to talking politely, making requests, giving suggestions, setting plans etc. Basically, everything that’s important for workplace communication!

Modal verbs are known as auxiliary verbs or “helping” verbs. We use them along with a main verb to express ideas like possibility, obligation, and permission.

Now let’s introduce you to the modal verbs in English and what each one means, before I give you examples of how to use them in different business contexts.


The word “can” is used to express ability, permission, and possibility. “Can” in negative also expresses certainty.


“I can finish that report tonight.” (Ability)

“Can I use your computer?” (Permission)

“Riding your bike to work can save you a lot of money.” (Possibility)

“She can’t be the new employee, HR told me she would not be starting until next week.” (Certainty)

Watch the episode here


“Must” is used to express that you think something is very important or necessary to do. Must in affirmative can also express certainty. 


“You must have that report on my desk by the end of the day. (Important/necessary to do)

“She must be the new employee that HR told us about.” (Certainty)


“Could” is used to express possibility or permission in a more polite tone than “can.”


“I am sure Maria could help you with that report.” or “Could we start the meeting at 10:30?”. (Possibility)

“Could I use your computer? (Polite permission)

Business English Expressions

This 14 module course helps English language learners build their knowledge of business vocabulary and expressions and their understanding of them in different business scenarios.

We cover vocabulary for negotiating , decision making, leadership and many more. 


You’re probably most familiar with “will” as the helping verb that creates the simple future tense in English, but it also can be used to indicate a request.


“Will you take this up to the marketing department on the 12th floor?” (Request)


The modal verb “would” is used to show a wish or preference. It can also be used to give advice or to make polite requests.


“I would rather go to work early than stay late.” (Preference)

“I would talk to the manager if I were you.” (Giving advice)

“Would you take this up to the marketing department on the 12th floor?” (Polite request)


“May” can be used to express permission — similar to “can” and “could,” but even more polite. It can also be used to express possibility.


“May I borrow your pen?” (Polite permission)

“Our competitor may be going out of business.” (Possibility)


The modal verb “might” is primarily used to express possibility, but sometimes this modal verb is used to express permission in a polite, deferential request —for example, between a low-level and high-level employee.


“I might go out for lunch today.” (Possibility)

“Might I propose an alternative solution?” (Polite permission)


“Should” is used for expressing advice and showing that you have to do something or are obliged (required) to do something.


“You should talk to your supervisor if you have a problem.” (Advice)

“I should finish this report by Friday.” (Obligation)


“Must” is used to express strong obligation. Use this verb to discuss things that absolutely have to happen


“You must turn off the lights if you’re the last person to leave the office.” (Obligation)

How to use modal verbs for business

Now that you know the meaning of modal verbs, let’s look at some specific business scenarios in which modal verbs are used, as well as some examples.

Making presentations

  • “Might/may I have your attention, please?”
  • “Could you please save your questions until the end?”
  • “Today, I would like to discuss…”
  • “In conclusion, we must find a way to decrease costs.”

Having meetings

  • “This meeting shouldn’t be too long; we’ll be out of here in 20 minutes.”
  • “We have to discuss your performance review this afternoon.”
  • “Should we order lunch for the staff meeting?”

Speaking to your staff

  • “When can you give me the numbers from this quarter?”
  • “Could you email me a detailed update?”
  • “We should plan to move forward with the merger.”

Talking to your manager

  • “May I have the morning off for a dental appointment?”
  • “I could help the trainees set up their workstations if you’d like.”
  • “Should I follow up with the client by phone or by email?”

Speaking with a client or customer

  • “May I confirm your full name and address, please?”
  • “My business partner and I would love to meet with you to discuss your needs —could we set up a time?”
  • “You’re a valued client. I think we can give you a better deal on that order!”

Interviewing someone

  • “Could you tell me more about your experience in the tech industry?”
  • “We’d love to hire you. Can you start immediately?”
  • “Before I make a final decision, I must check your references.”

Final thoughts

I hope you found this episode interesting and that it helps you to communicate clearly and professionally in your daily business interactions.

If you have any questions or comments, why don’t you send me a message on speakpipe or drop me a line on the blog.

Don’t forget to head over to the website and take up my pre-enrollment offer for my new course on business expressions.

You can get all the details at

Next week I will be back with another grammar day lesson. We will look at past modal verbs. This will be the follow up episode to this week’s podcast, so don’t miss it.

See you next week!

Related Posts

How English can launch your career with Arnau Camprubi

How English can launch your career with Arnau Camprubi

How to make your writing less wordy and clearer

How to make your writing less wordy and clearer

How to manage a discussion when chairing a meeting

How to manage a discussion when chairing a meeting

10 Go-To Expressions to Complain at Work Without Being Annoying

10 Go-To Expressions to Complain at Work Without Being Annoying


Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}