MODAL VERBS MODAL VERBS
Modal auxiliary verbs can, can’t, could be able to, be allowed to may, might must, have to, need mustn’t, needn’t shall, should, ought to will, would
Meaning can express different things: ability permission possibility certainty obligation advice requests, suggestions, offers & invitations meaning depends on the context
Form they are called modal auxiliary verbs because they “help” other verbs follow different rules for tense formation: no –s in the third person singular present no do/does/did in questions & negatives no infinitives & -ing forms
Expressing ability: can, could & be able to She can play three instruments. He can speak five languages, while I can’t speak any. She can go to music room to practice. we use can to say that something is possible: that someone has an ability or an opportunity negative is cannot or can’t in formal contexts we use be able to I will be able to come if I finish on time. He is good with computers, he is able to write programs.
Expressing ability for ability and opportunity in the past we use could or was/were able to She could play the piano when she was four. OR She was able to play the piano when she was four. if the ability or opportunity resulted in a particular action, we use was/were able to, not could The car was able to stop before the crash. He was able to come because he finished on time.
Expressing permission: can, may, could & be allowed to asking permission (can, could, may): Can I use your pen? Could we borrow your ladder, please? (more polite) May I see the letter? (rather formal) giving permission (can, may): You can wait there if you like. Could I borrow your pen? – Of course you can. You may telephone from here. (a written notice)
Expressing permission refusing permission (can’t, may not): Can we stay here? – I’m afraid you can’t. Bicycles may not be left here. (a written notice) talking about permission/rules (can, could, be allowed to): Each passenger can take one bag onto the plane. In the 1920 s you could drive without taking a test. It isn’t allowed to smoke in here.
Expressing obligation: must & have to we use must & have to to say that something is necessary i. e. there is an obligation to do it You are leaving school soon– you must think about your future. I have a lot to do so I have to work at weekend, too. must is used only in the present, in all other structures we use have to I had to take fifty exams to get a degree. He will have to finish work next week.
Expressing obligation we use must when the speaker feels that something is necessary; the obligation involves the speaker’s opinion – it’s personal You must exercise. (I’m telling you. ) We must be quiet. (He’s telling us. ) we use have to when the situation makes something necessary; it is a general obligation based on a law or rule or on someone’s authority – it’s impersonal I have to exercise. (The doctor told me. ) We have to be quiet. (That’s the rule. )
Expressing obligation have to has all forms, must does not He must go. – He has to go. negatives do not have the same meaning mustn’t means that something is forbidden; don’t have to expresses absence of obligation You don’t have to buy anything in the shop, you can just look. You mustn’t steal other people’s things – it’s wrong. have got to means the same as have to have got to is informal & used mainly in the present I’ve got to make some sandwiches for dinner.
Expressing obligation should & ought to express mild obligation, suggestions or advice – they express what is, in the speaker’s opinion, the best thing to do we often use them with I think or I don’t think. . . You are always asking for money. I think you should spend less. And you ought to be more careful with money. You shouldn’t smoke that much. You’ll get ill!
Making requests for polite requests we use can, could, will & would there are two ways of asking things: Can you help me? Could you give me a hand? Will you pass the salt, please? Would you mind waiting here? OR Can I talk to you? Could I have a word with you? can is more familiar, while could is more formal Could I & Could you can be used in all kinds of situations
Making suggestions & offers to express suggestions we use shall/should Shall we go for a walk? Should I open the window? It’s a bit stuffy. to express offers we use will & can I will carry that bag. Just leave it here. I can give you a lift to the station. to offer food or drink we use would like Would you like a piece of pie? Would anyone like more coffee?
Available: via e-mail irena-phd@vip. hr at www. ss-cazma. skole. hr by Irene, 2009