MODAL VERBS

MODAL VERBS

The General pattern of Modal Auxiliaries in a sentence is

 S + Modal Auxiliaries + V1 + C

1.         WILL

The uses of  WILL :

1.1.     in future tenses. (see Tenses)

1.2.     to express a REQUEST :

e.g.     A      :     Hey…  what’s  the matter with you?  Not feeling well, huh?

B       :     Will you get me some aspirin?

A      :     Sure. Here it is. Get some sleep for a moment then.

B       :     Thanks.

1.3.     to express a PROMISE (with first person)

e.g.     A      :     Don’t you remember that today is father’s birthday ?

B       :     Of course, I do.

A      :     So don’t forget to go home earlier!

B       :     I will.

1.4.     to express THREAT (with first person)

e.g.     A      :     I need some points in these three lessons in order to be promoted.

B       :     What do you want from me?

A      :     Let me know your answers in the final test.

B       :     But …

A      :     I will tell your shameful secret to everyone and send you away from my club.

Another  form of  WILL is BE GOING TO. It is used when we need two modal verbs in our sentence.

e.g.     They may be going to find the other facts. (NOT :  They  may will find the other facts)

He must be going to observe it in his laboratory.

BE GOING TO is used in future tense also. ( see TENSES )

2.         WOULD 

The uses of WOULD

2.1.     in past future tenses ( see TENSES )

2.2.     to express an INVITATION or OFFER

e.g.     A      :     Hey… what are you up to these days?

B       :     Just fine. And you?

A      :     Nothing to complain of. Would you join us? We have a small party to celebrate my graduate.

B       :     I wish  I could but I have something to  do  here. Oh .. congratulation, anyway!

A      :     Thanks.

2.3.     to express a REQUEST ( more polite than WILL ) :

e.g.     A      :     Would you look after my pets?  We will be out of the town for two days.

B       :     I will.

A      :     Sorry to trouble you.

B       :     Don’t worry.

The other forms of polite request  are :

– Would  you like to look after my pets?

– Would  you mind looking after my pets?

– Would  you care to look after my pets?

* WOULD  LIKE  =  WANT in these cases :

e.g.     I  would like to see some more ( more polite )  =  I want  to see some more

Would you like to speak to him?  =  Do you want to speak  to him?

* But see this comparison :

A      :     Would you like to have some tea with us? ( an invitation or offer )

B       :     Thank you. I’d love to.

A      :     Do you want to have some tea? ( a usual question )

B       :     Yes, I do / No, I don’t

* WOULD RATHER / SOONER ( to show preference )

e.g.     He  would  rather  stay here than go with you  =  He  prefers staying here to going with you.

He would rather eat some sea food than chicken =  He  prefers some sea food to chicken.

3.        SHALL

The uses of  SHALL :

3.1.     The same as WILL, it is used in future tense (see TENSES)

3.2.     to express a REQUEST FOR ADVICE OR ORDER

e.g.     A      :     Shall  I  apologize for  not calling  her  up  last night?

B       :     Why not?

A      :     But I doubt that she won’t accept it.

B       :     You haven’t tried it, have you?

3.3.     to express an OFFER

e.g.     A      :     Sorry that I make you wait for some minutes.

B       :     Never mind.

A      :     It is the busiest day. There’s so much work  I have to finish.

B       :     Shall I help you go over these reports ?

A      :     I appreciate your help, anyway, but I’ll manage it by myself.

3.4.     to express a SUGGESTION

e.g.     A      :     There is a speech contest  held  by the students from English department.

B       :     Then, what?

A      :     Shall we take advantage of this chance ?

B       :     Sounds great !

4.         SHOULD

The uses of SHOULD :

4.1.     It can replace SHALL in offer, suggestion and request for advice or order.

4.2.     to give advice / to say what we think it right or good for others to do

e.g.     A      :     You shouldn’t depend on him.

B       :     But he promised to come and help me. Do you  think he will keep his word ?

A      :     I am not sure. I know him for a long time, as I told you. He’s not a good guy.

4.3.     SHOULD with WHY and HOW :

4.3.1. to express INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND

e.g.     How should those birds be able to understand the trainer’s command?

Why should he fire the most faithful employee?

4.3.2. to express IRRITATION or ANGER

e.g.     A      :     Finish it now !

B       :     Why should I ? You have no right to order me !

 

A      :     What are they talking about ?

B       :     How  should I know it ? It’s not  my  business and yours, too.

5.         OUGHT TO

Its use is the same as SHOULD no. 2

6.         MAY

The uses of  MAY :

6.1.     to express PERMISSION :

6.1.1. to give permission ( affirmative )

e.g.     A      :     Why do you ask for a dog to that man?

B       :     I will take care of it.

A      :     Do your parents permit you?

B       :     Yes, I may keep a pet in my house if I promise to take care of it myself.

6.1.2. to ask for permission ( interrogative )

e.g.     A      :     Excuse me Sir, may I interrupt ?

B       :     Yes, come in.

A       :     Someone urges to meet you though I have told that you are having an important meeting.

B       :     Ask him to get in!

6.1.3. to refuse permission / PROHIBITION ( negative )

e.g.     In the school laboratory,

A      :     We will use some chemical substances which cause our skin burnt if they touch it. So, you may not make a joke here. Don’t forget to use the gloves.

B       :     Yes, Sir !

* In  past and perfect tenses we usually use BE ALLOWED TO but  in indirect speech we can use MIGHT.

e.g.     I was allowed to keep a pet when I was a child.  (=  My parents allowed me / gave me permission to keep…)

They have been allowed to use their rights in this election.

She said,” He may have three days off “.

She said that he might have three days off.

BE  ALLOWED  TO is also used if we want to use two modal verbs  in  our sentence.

e.g.     You  will  be  allowed to leave early  if  everything  is finished. ( NOT : You will may leave …)

The journalists must be allowed to cover up this trial.

6.2.     to  express  POSSIBILITY   (in future or present  and  used  in positive and negative only) :

e.g.     A      :     Look at the two young men standing by the pool!

B       :     What’s wrong?

A      :     They may be the members of FBI.

B       :     How do you know ?

A      :     I often see them where our boss is.

6.3.     to express FAITH or HOPE

e.g.     A      :     Listen ! I have got the promotion!!

B       :     Really? Tell me.

A      :     When I gave my last proposal this morning,  Mr. T told that I should move to the room next to his.

B       :     Oh … I’m glad to hear that. May the great success come to your life! Congratulation!

A      :     Thank you.

7.         MIGHT

The uses of  MIGHT :

7.1.     as past form of MAY used in indirect speech. (see MAY)

7.2.     to express POSSIBILITY (smaller than MAY)

e.g.     A      :     They aren’t familiar to one another, so it might  be easy for them to work in group.

B       :     I don’t think so. Children are always able to adapt to their new environment and friends.

 

A      :     As those new employees have just graduated, they might be able to handle this unit well.

B       :     I agree with you. They don’t have  enough  experience.

8.         CAN

The uses of  CAN :

8.1.     to express ABILITY (in present or future)

e.g.     A      :     Hey  …  can  you slow down this car  ?  It’s  too slippery.

B       :     Don’t worry,  I  can control it  well.  Don’t you remember that I am the best motorist ?

A      :     Don’t be so proud of yourself.

* BE ABLE TO is another form of CAN. We use it when there are two modals in our sentence.

e.g.     Don’t  worry,  the thief  won’t be able to break  up  this box. ( NOT : the thief won’t can break up …)

My mechanic may be able to fix it. ( NOT :  my mechanic  may can fix it )

Every student should be able to think critically. (  NOT  : every student should can think …)

He must be able to solve it by himself. ( NOT :  he must can solve …)

* BE ABLE TO is also used in PAST and PERFECT tenses.

e.g.     She has been able to calm down those people.

He was able to improve his ability by himself.

8.2.     to express POSSIBILITY ( affirmative only ). It is  different from possibility expressed by MAY.

8.2.1. it means that it is possible if circumstances permit.

e.g.     A      :     I wish that he isn’t late. If he misses the interview, he will lose his chance to get what he is eager to reach.

B       :     I think he can get there in about two hours because the bypass has been opened. So, he will have 30 minutes to prepare himself.

8.2.2. theoretically it is possible.

e.g.     A      :     Please, decrease the temperature quickly! It’s more than normal.

B       :     Why?

A      :     The pipe can burst out if it is overheated

8.2.3. to give information about the characteristics of persons or things.

e.g.     A   :     What do you think about her?

B    :     Why do you ask me?

A   :     You are her cousin, aren’t you?

B    :     As far as I know, she is a sensitive girl. She  can keep herself away from anyone who hurts her, even her boyfriend, for a long time.

8.3.     to  express PERMISSION (in affirmative or question  only  and less formal than MAY)

e.g.     A   :     Can I have some more?   (ask for permission)

B    :     Hey … you are on a diet, aren’t you?

A   :     Not in such situation.

B    :     Hm … that’s why you never lose your weight.

 

A   :     Listen! I have got good news for us. We can collect our assignment next week.  ( the speaker doesn’t have an authority to give permission)

B    :     How do you know?

A   :     The teacher called me this morning and told that there would be a meeting tomorrow , so the discussion would be cancelled.

8.4.    to express an OFFER

8.4.1. in positive

e.g.     A   :     You look so confused.

B    :     It will be my turn to answer after her but I haven’t got the answer yet.

A   :     You can use my work

B    :     No, thank you. The teacher will know that it is yours.

8.4.2.    in question

e.g.     A   :     How about the preparation?

B    :     I don’t  think that we can finish  it  today.  We still have to contact Mr. D for accommodation.

A   :     Can I call at his office on the way to my house?  I will ring you before dinner.

B    :     That’s  nice of you. Thank you.

A   :     Don’t mention it.

8.5.     to express a REQUEST (less formal than WOULD)

e.g.     A   :     I  am  still confused about this  point.  Can  you explain it to me?

B    :     Sure,  but I can’t do it right now because I  will have a test. How about in the afternoon?

A   :     In your house ?

B    :     Of course, what’s the matter?

A   :     Oh  ..  I  am just afraid that some  one  will  be jealous.

B    :     Don’t be worried, I have no special one.

 

9.         COULD    

the uses of  COULD :

9.1.     to express PAST ABILITY (= WAS/WERE ABLE TO)

e.g.     A   :     Have you visited him?

B    :     Not yet. How is he?

A   :     He is getting better physically, but it seems  that he  loses his memories. He could /was able to mention  the  formulae  of  solutions  accurately  and spontaneously, but now he has to think hard to find them.

9.2.     to express PAST PERMISSION (= WAS/WERE ALLOWED TO)

e.g.     A   :     Do  you  remember what we always did in  this  park when we were children?

B    :     Yes,  we  could come here every afternoon  to  play with our friends.

A   :     But now, look at the sign! We can’t even enter it.

9.3.     to express POSSIBILITY :

9.3.1. For affirmative or interrogative sentence, it is the  same as MAY / MIGHT.

e.g.     Would you open the door?  It could / may / might  be your friend.

9.3.2. there is a difference between MAY and COULD in negative.

e.g.     He couldn’t have an answer. (It is impossible  that he has an answer )

He may not have an answer. ( perhaps he doesn’t have an answer )

9.3.3. COULDN’T ( or CAN’T ) can be used for NEGATIVE CONCLUSION / CERTAINTY  ( contrasted to MUST ).

e.g.     A   :     She never comes late.

B    :     She may forget it.

A   :     I don’t think so, I know her. She always keeps her word.  She couldn’t / can’t have someone  to  take her. I’ll phone her for sure.

9.4.     COULD YOU … ? can also be used for introducing a request as an alternative to WOULD YOU…?

e.g.     Would you / could you do me a favor ?

10.       MUST, HAVE TO  and  NEED

The uses of MUST :

10.1.   To express obligation :

OBLIGATION ABSENCE  OF  OBLIGATION NEGATIVE OBLIGATION
Future must

will have to

need not

won’t need to

must not

won’t have to

Present must

have to

need not

don’t need to

must not

don’t have to

Past had to didn’t have to didn’t need to

10.1.1.In  affirmative,  MUST is used in present and  future.  For other  tenses, we use HAVE TO although it can also be  used in present and future (with WILL).

See  the difference between MUST and HAVE TO in present  or future :

e.g.     A  MOTHER  to HER SON : “ When you are thirteen next month , your own room will have been finished  so you must do  your  room yourself . Besides, you have been grown up. Be responsible to yourself “.  (internal obligation or the speaker’s obligation)

A MOTHER to HER SON : “ You will have to do your room when  you  have been in college dormitory as the rule says. You can’t pay someone for it .” (external obligation or the rule of the dormitory)

* In the first person, HAVE TO  is used for habits while MUST for an important or urgent obligation.

e.g.     A      :     Why are you in a hurry?

B       :     Ditto hasn’t come yet. I must call him up to tell that they will arrive in 15 minutes. He is the MC.

 

A      :     What time is it?

B       :     19.45

A      :     Oh… my GOD, I have to tell my parents that I will be late for dinner.

B       :     Do you have to do it?

A      :     Yes, every member of my family will do it. It’s our habit whenever we will go home late in order that they aren’t worried about us.

 

10.1.2.   NEED  can  be treated as an auxiliary and  used  mainly  in negative and interrogative. It has no past form, and usually used for present or future. ( see the table above )

e.g.     A      :  You  needn’t  do it in a hurry. I have  put  off  the meeting till next week. ( The speaker has an authority  to state that an action is unnecessary )

B       :     Yes, Sir!

 

A      :     Can I borrow your dictionary?

B       :     What for ?

A      :     to finish the vocabulary task ! Do you forget about it?

B       :     Are you daydreaming ?  Don’t you remember that it’s always collected at the end of a month?  We still have much time. You don’t have to /  don’t need to do it now.  ( for habit or negative external obligation )

 

A  :  You  must  not do it in a hurry because  if  you  are careless  and  make  a  mistake,   it will  explode.  (negative internal obligation / prohibition )

B  :   but we have limited time, Sir!

A  :   Don’t worry, I will ask Mr. D to help you! Our success depends on you, so do be careful !

10.1.3.   There  are  some possible answers  in  interrogative  using MUST,

QUESTION POSITIVE  ANSWER NEGATIVE ANSWER
Shall I have to? Yes, you will No, you won’t
Does he have to go? Yes, he does No, he doesn’t
Need I go? Yes, you must No, you needn’t
Must I go? Yes, you must No, you needn’t

e.g.     A   :     You must supply them with the correct information.

B    :     Must I supply them with the data too?

A   :     No, you needn’t.

B    :     The  correct information usually includes the  correct data, doesn’t it?

A   :     Yes, but not in this case. You  should  understand that  sometimes  we  don’t have  to  give  anything clearly to anyone who wants to know about us.

 

10.2.   to express a POSITIVE CONCLUSION / CERTAINTY :

e.g.     A   :     Look, it seems that there is no vacant seat for the three of us.

B    :     I  don’t  think so, because Mr. D told me  that  he still had 30 % of the tickets left.

A   :     So, there must be some seats vacant in the front.

 

* See the difference between MUST and MAY or MIGHT :

A   :     What should I give her? She refused all I gave  to her.

B    :     Give the food which is cooked by yourself. She may accept it because she likes your cooking.

A   :     I have, but still she doesn’t touch it.

B    :     (thinks for a moment) Ha … it must work out.

A   :     What’s in your mind ?

B    :     You  don’t need to give it yourself. Let  her  boyfriend do it.

A   :     You are a smart man.

 

11.       DARE

 

As an auxiliary, it is usual in negative or question form.

Negative present / past                He does not dare /  dares not

He did not dare / dared not

 

Interrogative present / past        Does he dare? / Dare he?

Did he dare? / Dared he?

 

e.g.     He doesn’t dare (to) say anything after that quarrel.

He dares not (to) say anything after that quarrel.

 

Did he dare interrupt them?

Dared he interrupt them?

 

* HOW DARE(D) HE /YOU / THEY ?

expresses indignation or anger.

 

e.g.     How  dare you open my letter without my permission  ?  (= I’m angry with you for opening it)

How dared he make  a fool  of  her in front of the  audience last night ? ( = I was really indignant of his behavior )

 

 

GRAMMAR

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