Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Modal Verbs (Part One)

What are modal verbs?

How are they different from other verbs?

  • They are helping verbs (or "auxiliary verbs") that carry special meaning.

There are a few things to remember about modal verbs:
  1. They are always accompanied by a main verb (never alone)
  2. They do not change in the third person singular form (no "s")
  3. Many can't be used in the past tenses or future tenses
  4. We add "not" to make one negative
  5. We do not use "do/does/did" with these to make a question

How should we use them and what do they all mean?


CAN/COULD: to show ability (or lack of it)

    I can ski, but my sister could ski when she was only three.



CAN/COULD: to show option/ indicate a choice

   You can either play hockey or ski this winter, if you are looking for a fun winter sport.


CAN/COULD/MAY: to show permission/ make a request

  Can I borrow your pencil? (Informal)
  Could I open the window? (More formal)
  May I open the window? (Most formal)
  


CAN: to show opportunity

  We can get some great apples in Maine at this time of year.


SHOULD/OUGHT TO (and HAD BETTER): to show advisability/ advice

   You should stop smoking.
   You ought to study more.

  •    Find more information here, here, or by watching this video. (animated and very simple)
  •    To get some practice, try this: Practice 5

SHOULD/OUGHT TO: to show expectation

   The bus should arrive soon. The schedule indicates that it will be here in 10 minutes.

  •    For practice (and to get familiar with this use), try these: Practice 6 (easy), Practice 7 (easy)

SHOULD/COULD/MIGHT/SHALL: for suggestions

   Shouldn't we close the window? It's getting cold.
   You might want to study more.
   Shall we go out to dinner tonight?

  
WOULD LIKE: to show desire

   I would like to go to Florida this winter.
   Would you like to have some iced tea with your lunch?


MUST: to show an assumption/inference

   It must be cold outside today. There is frost on my window.


MUST (and HAVE TO): to show necessity/obligation/prohibition

  We must complete the bonus exercises before the test in order to earn the points.
  You mustn't be late for class.
  We have to study for the test.


WILL: to show a general truth, promise, or prediction (see "FUTURE FORMS" post for more information)

MAY/MIGHT/COULD: to show possibility
 
   She might visit us tomorrow, if she has time.
   You could finish your homework if you hurry and stay focused.
   We may have pizza for dinner. We haven't decided, yet.

  

Where can I practice more with all of these?


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