What is the modal verb muss

Modal verbs in German grammar

What are modal verbs?

modal verbs are the verbs in German may, can, like, must, should and want. These verbs usually need another verb (the main verb) in the infinitive. Modal verbs change the content of a statement - for example, it makes a difference whether someone does something got to or may.

Learn how the German modal verbs are formed and used in the different tenses and then test your knowledge in the exercises.


When do you use modal verbs in German?

With modal verbs we change the meaning of a sentence. There is a difference between being something want, may or got to.

Max wants to be a car mechanic.
Max is allowed to become a car mechanic.
Max is supposed to be a car mechanic.

We usually use modal verbs with the infinitive of the main verb.

Max wants a mechanic become.

When the main verb is taken for granted, we often leave it out in everyday language.

Do you speak german (speak)?
Do you want a pizza (eat)?
I can do that (do).

Formation of the modal verbs in different tenses

  • In the present and past tense we use the finite form (see conjugation table). In the perfect tense we use the infinitive of the modal verb.

How are German modal verbs conjugated?

In the following table you will find the conjugation for all German modal verbs in the present and past tense as well as the forms for participle II and subjunctive II.

* to like is mostly used today without a main verb - I like you

** want is actually subjunctive II of to like, but is used today in the present tense as a separate modal verb (for the past tense we use want).