Modal Verbs

Modal verbs combine with other verbs in the infinitive to modify a statement:

Neutral statement: Ich komme morgen. - I'm coming tomorrow.

Wollen - to wish/to want

Wish: Ich will morgen kommen. - I want to come tomorrow.

Conjugate wollen

Mögen - would like

Polite wish: Ich möchte morgen kommen. - I'd like to come tomorrow.

Conjugate mögen

Müssen - must/have to/need to

Necessity: Ich muss morgen kommen. - I have to come tomorrow.

Conjugate müssen

Können - to be able to

Ability: Ich kann morgen kommen. - I can come tomorrow.

Conjugate können

Dürfen - may

Permission: Darf ich morgen kommen? - Am I allowed to come tomorrow?

Disallowance: Morgen darf ich nicht kommen. - I am not allowed to come tomorrow.

Conjugate dürfen

Sollen - should/need to

Offer, suggestion: Soll ich morgen kommen? - Should I come tomorrow?

Necessity: Ich soll morgen kommen. - I need to come tomorrow.

Conjugate sollen

The verb brauchen (need to) is widely used as a modal verb in colloquial German but is still generally found with zu + infinitive in formal and written language.

Sie brauchen nicht mehr kommen. - You don't have to come back. (informal)

Sie brauchen nicht zu antworten. - You don't have to answer that. (formal)


The verb müssen has several meanings: 'to have to ', 'to need', and 'must'. In tenses consisting of one verb part, the infinitive of the verb comes at the end of the sentence.

Ich muss den Schlüssel finden. - I need to find the key.

Er kann sehr gut Deutsch sprechen. - He can speak German very well.


The verb dürfen means 'to be allowed to', 'may', or 'can'. With a negative nicht it means 'must not/not allowed to'.

Darf ich hier bleiben? - May/Can I stay here?

Das dürfen Sie nicht machen. - You can't/mustn't do it.


The modal verb sollen corresponds directly to the English should or supposed to.

Sollen wir mit Martin auf Deutsch reden? - Should we speak to Martin in German?

Hören Sie zu


The verb lassen (to leave, to let) can be used as a main or modal verb.

When used as a modal verb lassen often means 'to have/get something done'.

Er ließ den Wagen reparieren. He had the car repaired.

Grammar Patterns

Listening Comprehension

Grammar Topics