The present study is concerned with the reflection and propagation of thermoelastic harmonic plane waves from the stress-free and isothermal surface of a homogeneous, isotropic thermally conducting elastic half-space in the frame of the modified Green–Lindasy (MGL) theory of generalized thermoelasticity with strain rate proposed by Yu et al. (Meccanica 53:2543–2554, 2018). The thermoelastic coupling effect creates two types of coupled longitudinal waves which are dispersive as well as exhibit attenuation. Different from the thermoelastic coupling effect, there also exists one independent vertically shear-type (SV-type) wave. In contrast to the classical Green–Lindsay (GL) and Lord–Shulman (LS) theories of generalized thermoelasticity, the SV-type wave is not only dispersive in nature but also experiences attenuation. Analytical expressions for the amplitude ratios of the reflected thermoelastic waves are determined when a coupled longitudinal wave is made incident on the free surface. The paper concludes with the numerical results on the phase speeds and the amplitude ratios for specific parameter choices. Various graphs have been plotted to analyze the behavior of these quantities. The characteristics of employing the MGL model are discussed by comparing the numerical results obtained for the present model with those obtained in case of the GL and LS models. © 2019, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science.