There are two types of auxiliaries: primary or tense auxiliaries (be, have, do)
and modal auxiliaries. (can/could, may/might, will/would, shall/should, need, dare, must, ought to.)
The first group of verbs does not have any meaning, it only helps the main verb to realise its own meaning while the other group, modal auxiliaries, have their own meaning.
There are 12 modal auxiliaries. There are four paired forms: can, could, may, might, will would, shall, should and four single forms: must, dare, need, ought (to).
Verbs dare and need function both as modal auxiliaries and lexical verbs (main verb in the sentence.) As modals they are used only in negative and interrogative (sentences with question-mark) sentences, but as lexical verbs they are used in all three forms of sentences: positive, negative and interrogative.
He needs/ dares to work.
He need not/ dare not work.
He doesn’t need/ dare to work.
Need/ Dare to work?
Does he need/ dare to work?
What kind of the verb need do have in the following sentence and why?
I need hardly say how awfully sorry I am.
We have to be very careful in this case, it seems like it is a positive sentence and that it is lexical verb but actually the sentence is negative. In this sentence we have the word hardly which belongs to the group of negative words in English language (hardly, barely, scarcely etc.) and when we have one negative word in the English language sentence the whole sentence is negative.
These are main features of modal auxiliaries:
- They have no –s suffix in the third person singular in the present simple tense (He can swim. NOT: *He cans swim.)
- They form negative forms by adding not, just like primary auxiliaries do, have and be (He cannot/ can’t swim.)
- They form their interrogative forms by inverting subject and the modal verb ( Can he swim?)
- They are followed by the bare infinitive, which means that modal verbs are not followed by TO (He can swim. He must go. NOT: *He can to swim. He must to go.) This is applied to all modal verbs except these three: be able to, ought to, have to.
- They have no infinitive or participial/gerund forms.
Observe in which cases the verbs have to and be able to replace modal verbs must and can:
- I shall be able to come after 10. (*I shall can – this is not possible because one sentence can never contain two modals! Modal verb cannot be followed by another modal verb)
They will have to break the news carefully to me. (*They will must)
- We’d like to be able to come but we are very busy tonight. (*to can – “to” can never precede or follow modal verbs)
- I am having to do it very carefully. (*I am musting- modal verbs can never have –ing form)
- She has not been able to read much since she was operated on. (*She has not can – modals cannot be used in past participial form)
Modals have only two formal tenses: the present and the past. Their present form can indicate both present and future time:
They can/ may/ will/ shall etc come immediately. (present)
They can/ may/ will/ shall etc come tomorrow. (future)
We frequently use modals when we talk about our relationship with someone else. We may, for example, ask for permission to do somthing; grant permission to someone, give or receive advice, make or respond to requests and offers. We can express different levels of politeness both by the forms we choose and the way we say things. In the primary function of modals, modal verbs reflect the meanings often given first in most dictionaries, so that:
-can/ could relate mainly to ability: I can play piano. I can lift 35kg.
-may/might relate mainly to permission: You may leave earlier.
-will/would relate mainly to prediction: It will rain tomorrow.
-shall after I/ We relates mainly to prediction: Can we find our way home?- I’m sure we shall.
-should/ ought to relate mainly to escapable obligation or duty: You should do (ought to do) as you are told.
-must relates mainly to inescapable obligation (it’s a must, you cannot not to do that) You must be quiet.
-needn’t relates to the absence of obligation: You needn’t wait.
Modals can also be used to express degree of certainty/uncertainty of speaker’s words. We can arrange them from the greatest uncertainty (expressed by might) to the greatest certainty (expressed by must). The order of these modals is not fixed. It depends on situation:
might very uncertain
You should be right.
ought to have been right.
must almost certain
Can and could are used both for human beings and things to express casual occurrence of some of their characteristics:
In spring, this small river can overflow and inundate the whole village.
He can be very nasty when he is provoked.
Can also expresses ability: Can you run 1500 miles in 5 minutes? (Are you able to run? Are you capable of running?)
Could expresses ability in the past:
Jim could run very fast when he was a boy.
Ana could play piano when she was younger.
Could cannot be used when we are describing the successful completion of a specific action. In that case we use was/were able to, managed to or succeeded in + -ing:
In the end they were able to rescue/ managed to rescue/ succeeded in rescuing the cat on the roof.
If an action was not successfully completed, we may use couldn’t:
They tried for hours, but they couldn’t rescue the cat. (or weren’t able to, didn’t manage to, didn’t succeed in rescuing...)
Could can be used in questions too, when we ask about a specific action (as opposed to describing it where could cannot be used):
Could they rescue the cat on the roof? (did they managed to?)
- No, they couldn’t.
BUT: an affirmative response cannot contain could:
-Yes, they were able to.
If we need to express ability in other tense, future or present perfect tense for example, then we cannot use could or can anymore, we have to use be able to, manage to or succeed in:
I’ll be able to go with you next month.
I’ve been trying to contact him, but I haven’t managed to.
May and might usually express possibility:
Permission to visit the museum may/can be obtained here .
He may come to see us.
If we want to express past possibility, we must use may/might/could + perfect infinitive:
They may have seen him at the theatre.
Might is also used to make requests, suggestions or recommendations:
You might ask him to go with you.
You might visit him while he is here.
You might help your sister with her homework.
Should and ought to express expectation or probability:
He left home an hour ago; he should be at the station by now. -probability
The new factory should solve this problem. – probability
The meeting ought to have finished by now. –expectation
I should have passed that exam. –expectation
Must and can’t refer to inference and logical conclusions.
Must + present infinitive is used to express the speaker’s or writer’s logical conclusion that what he has concluded is almost true:
She must be hungry.
Joe must be at least 45.
The oppositive of must in these sentences is can’t:
She must be hungry. –No, she can’t be hungry. She has just eaten.
John must be at least 45. –No, he can’t be 45, he went to the same school with my mum and my mum is 36.
This is deduction, these claims are based on some evidence, while the possibility is often based on the speculation and that is how we know the difference.
We also have to be careful with the difference between deduction and obligation where must is also used:
He must be hungry. He must have been hungry. –deduction
He must be careful. He had to visit the doctor. -obligation
If we want to express what seems to be the most likely conclusion in the past we use must + perfect infinitive:
It must have been great fun to be with him.
He must have been fifty when he died.
He must have graduated years ago.
Will and would have many different functions. First of all, they are used to express belief and conjecture. If we want to express what we believe or guess to be true, we can use will and would.
You will be Mr. Smith, I suppose.
This will be your bag Jane.
That will be the postman at the door now.
If you are not certain about something, and you want to be polite expression your uncertainty, in that case you use would:
Would you be Mary’s sister, by any chance?
Would this be what you are looking for?
This wouldn’t be your hat, I suppose?
These two modals also express characteristic behaviour. Will may be used to express a characteristic or persistent behaviour of the people and events:
She will never go to bed without eating an apple.
John will never clean his own shoes.
He will ask silly questions.
Boys will be boys.
Whenever they visited her they would bring her some cookies.
Will and would also express inherent capacity. The idea that some thins possess an inherent quality or capacity cab be expressed using will + present infinitive for present time and would + present infinitive for past time.
My car is faster than your car. It will do 200 km/h.
This car will hold five people.
This key will open any door. –This key won’t open this door.
The key wouldn’t open the door.
When it comes to the prediction we use shall and will. There are several ways in which a future event can be predicted. According to the old grammarian rule, shall is used with the first person, I and we, and will is used with the second and third person.
Shall + infinitive after the pronouns I and we may express “pure future” and it is not the only meaning it can bear. Like other modals, it may have some additional meanings. For example it may have the meaning of determination or willingness like we can see in the following sentence:
We shall defend out island whatever the cost may be.
is (according to the same old rule) used after you, he, she, it, they and after nouns.
The President will visit China in December. He will meet the Minister of Education there.
The train will arrive in London at 8 am.
Will is used after I and we when we want to express strong determination, intention or willingness: I think I will do it tonight.
Beside this, will can also have the meaning of instruction and command:
You will find John and tell him what I want!
In negative sentences shan’t and won’t replace shall and will.
We use shall, should, ought to, and had better when we want advice or recommendation. A question starting with Shall I usually expresses a request of the speaker directed to the person that he is talking to:
Shall I tell him the truth?
Here are some examples of modals expressing advice:
You should/ ought to stop smoking.
You should/ ought to practice translation every day.
You shouldn’t/ ought not to drink water after running.
Had better is also used for advice and recommendation but it refers to the wisest choice in a concrete situation: You’d better tell him the truth.
Must, mustn’t and have to refer to obligation and necessity. There are several different “shades” of the meaning of must illustrated in the following examples:
1. Candidates must write their names in block letters.
2. I must learn Spanish before I go to Spain.
3. We must visit him in the hospital.
4. You must see her swimming.
In the above examples must expresses obligation imposed by the speaker. However, have to expresses obligation imposed by somebody or something else:
We’ll have to get up early tomorrow . (because we have to go to dentist for example, not because we want to)
We have to learn two foreign languages at our faculty.
I have to tell you the truth about him.
The absence of obligation or necessity (when we don’t have to do something) is expressed in three ways:
1. You needn’t learn if you don’t want to.
2. You don’t need to whisper.
3. We don’t have to leave early in the morning.
- Verbs tenses
- Present Tenses
- Present Simple Tense
- Present Continous Tense
- Present Perfect Tense
- Present Perfect Continuous Tense
- Past Tenses
- Past Simple Tense
- Past Continuous (Progressive) Tense
- Past Perfect Tense
- Future Tenses
- The Simple Future Tense
- Future Continuous Tense
- Future Perfect Tense
- Future Perfect Continous Tense
- Stative and dynamic verbs
- Transitive and intransitive verbs
- Reflexive verbs
- Full verbs and auxiliary verbs
- Modal verbs
- Indirect speech