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German has six modal verbs that you should memorize. They express an attitude about an action or condition described by the main verb. The modal auxiliary is conjugated and placed in the second position of the sentence. The main verb is in the infinitive form and placed at the end of the clause or sentence.
Ich kann eine Fahrkarte kaufen. (I can buy a ticket.) Kann is the conjugated auxiliary verb and kaufen is the main verb in infinitive form.
|können - to be able to, can|
|ich kann||wir können|
|du kannst||ihr könnt|
|er/sie/es kann||sie/Sie können|
|müssen - to have to, must|
|ich muß||wir müssen|
|du mußt||ihr müsst|
|er/sie/es muß||sie/Sie müssen|
|dürfen - to be allowed/permitted to|
|ich darf||wir dürfen|
|du darfst||ihr dürft|
|er/sie/es darf||sie/Sie dürfen|
Nicht müssen translates to do not have to or do not need to. Nicht dürfen translates to must not. Du mußt es nicht machen is you don't have to do it. Du darfst es nicht machen is you must not (or are not allowed) to do it.
|sollen - to be supposed to|
|ich soll||wir sollen|
|du sollst||ihr sollt|
|er/sie/es soll||sie/Sie sollen|
|wollen - to want (to)|
|ich will||wir wollen|
|du willst||ihr wollt|
|er/sie/es will||sie/Sie wollen|
|mögen - to like|
|ich mag||wir mögen|
|du magst||ihr mögt|
|er/sie/es mag||sie/Sie mögen|
|ich möchte||wir möchten|
|du möchtest||ihr möchtet|
|er/sie/es möchte||sie/Sie möchten|
This subjunctive of mögen expresses would like to and is used more often than the indicative of mögen. Ich möchte eine Fahrkarte kaufen means I would like to buy a ticket.
Sometimes the infinitive is not required with modal verbs, if the meaning is clear enough without them. For example, you can often omit sprechen and tun after können and you can omit verbs of motion if there is an adverb of place.
Ich kann Spanisch. I can/know how to speak Spanish.
Er will nach Hause. He wants to go home.
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