Modals are those auxiliary verbs (helping verbs),which express the ‘mode ‘ or ‘manner’ of the actions indicated by the main verb. They express modes such as ability, possibility, permission, obligation etc.
E .g. We can speak in English. (Ability)
It might rain in the evening. (possibility)
May I go to watch a movie ? (permission)
You must do your duty. (obligation)
USAGE OF MODALS :
-> A modal does not change according to the number person of the subject.
E .g. We can play. They can play. You can play.
She can play. I can play. Unlike: I go to college.
-> A modal is always used with a verb in its basic from. The modal takes the
Tense while the main verb remain in its dictionary form.
E .g. I can speak. I could speak. I may speak. I might speak.
Modals can be used alone in response to a question.
E .g. Can you speak? I can. Will you speak? I will
Will you dance? I will or I may.
Modals, when joined with ‘not’ to form a negative, can be contracted.
E .g. I can not sing. I can’t sing . I do not sing. I don’t sing.
I will not sing. I won’t sing
THE FOLLOWING ARE MODAL AUXILIARIES :
‘Shall’, ‘Should’, ‘Will’, ‘Would’, ‘Can’, ‘could’, May’, ‘might’, Ought to’, ‘Need’, ‘Dare’
Used in 1st person to give information about future action.
E .g. I shall finish this topic by tomorrow
Used in 2nd and 3rd person to express command, threat determination and
E .g. (i) you shall leave the class at once. (command)
(ii) she shall study regularly and succeed. (Determination)
(iii) If you make a noise, you shall be punished. (Threat)
(iv) He shall get a prize if he succeeds. (Promise)
In interrogative sentences, ‘shall’ is used with 1st person to indicate offer or suggestion and with 3rd person to know the desire of the person spoken to.
E.g. (i) Shall I make a cup of coffee for you? (Offer)
(ii) Which book shall I buy? (Asking to suggest)
(iii) Shall the florist send flowers to your friend? (i.e. do you want it so)
- Past tense of ‘shall’ in indirect speech. g. I said that I should succeed.
- To express duty or obligation. g. We should obey our parents.
- To express conditions. g. Should this happen, I will resign.
- To express request. g. I should like to inform you about my inability to come.
- For advice. E .g. you should not tell a lie.
Will: used in 2nd person and 3rd person to express certainty.
E .g. You will begin the work tomorrow.
Note: In modern English there is a tendency to use ‘will’ in all persons to indicate future tense, request, promise, determination, habit and characteristics.
- To show Future tense g. My friend will come tomorrow.
- To express Request g. Will you have coffee?
- To express Promise g. I will take care of your brother.
- To show determination g. They will fight to the finish.
- To show Habit g. She will be talking all the time with no work.
- To show Characteristics g. This machine will work very well and will not Give any trouble.
Imp. Note the force of ‘shall’ and ‘will’.
- The college will remain closed. (=it is possible that college will remain closed). .
- The college shall remain closed. (=it is promised/ordered that the college will remain closed). .
- I shall not help you. (=I am not going to help you). .
- I will help you. (=I am determined not to help you). .
- Used to indicate Past tense of ‘will’. g. He said that he would be back soon.
- To express wish or desire. g. I would like to ask you something.
- To express future in past. E .g. she asked me if I would held her.
- For requests. g. would you please shut the door.
- To show past habits. g. in the past he would go for long walk.
- To express preference or determination with ‘rather’ E. Rather die then beg. I would carry out your orders at all cost.
- To seek or grant permission. g. Can I go out? : You can go now.
- For possibility. g. accidents can happen anytime.
- To show ability. g. he can speak English. They can solve this problem.
Note: ‘May’ can also be used instead of ‘can’. But ‘can’ is generally used, as it is less formal then ‘May’. ‘can’ indicates a theoretical possibility and ‘May’ a factual possibility.
- Used to indicate Past tense of ‘can’. g. He said that he could solve the problem.
- To show possibility. g. This problem could be solved.
- For permission. g. could I use your cell-phone? :You could come to my my office anytime.
- To express polite requests. g. Could you wait for a minute?
- For conditional possibility. g. if I had the money, I could buy a new house.
- For permission. g. May I come in?
- To show possibility. g. the road may be blocked today due to the procession.
Note : it can rain any day. (Theoretical possibility)It may rain today evening as clouds are gathering.(Factual possibility)
- To show purpose. g. we eat so that we may live. They work hard that they may succeed.
- To express formal wish. g. May God bless you ! May his soul rest in peace.
- Used to indicate Past tense of ‘may’. g. he said that he might come.
- To show possibility. g. it might rain. (Less possibility then it may rain).
- To show purpose. g. He worked hard so that he might win.
- To express obligation or compulsion. E.g. You most be back by 9 p.m. You must not do it.
- To show determination. g. you must win the first prize. I must finish this topic by today.
- To express strong possibility. g. there must be some mistake somewhere.
Ought (to) :
- To express moral obligation, duty or desirability. E .g. you ought to respect your elders.
- The negative form of ‘ought to’ is ‘ought not to’ . E .g. You ought not to speak to your parents in this manner.
Used (to) means ‘accustomed to’. It expresses a routine or pattern or habit. E.g. She is quite used to hard work. You will soon get used to it.
It expresses a discontinued habit or a past situation , which contrasts with the E.g. She used to drink milk, now she drink tea.
I was used to use this writing desk in the past, but I don’t use it now. It is now being used by my younger brother.
Note: ‘Used to’ should not be confused with the finite verb ‘use’.
‘Used to’ is always used in the past form. It does not have a present tense. The Present tense of ‘I used to teach (in kota)’.
‘Need’ as a modal auxiliary means ‘be obliged’ or ‘be necessary ‘. It Is are followed by infinitives without ‘to’. ‘Need’ can be Used with do/did when it is followed by an infinitive with ‘to’
E .g. Need I tell him to study?(is it necessary for me to tell him to go?)
He need not go. (it is not necessary for him to go)
I need hardly to tell you. (You must already know)
Does she need to go so soon?(is it necessary for her to go so soon?)
To express necessary.
E .g. the students need to study regularly.
All of you need to be punctual.
The house needs (requires) repairs.
‘Dare’ as a modal auxiliary means ‘be bold enough to’. It is commonly used in interrogative
and Negative sentences. It can also be used with do / did.
E .g. How dare you fight with me ?
He does not dare (to) fight with me.
Does he dare (to) fight with me ?
To express courage.
E .g. Don’t dare to touch my book.
Do /Does :
To emphasize a statement.
E .g. I do need your help.
She does sing well
To express request in persuasive way.
E .g. Please do come to my party. I’ll wait for you.
When ‘Have’ (as a main verb) means ‘possess’ it is used without the auxiliary ‘Do’ to
From question or negatives in British usage. In American usage ‘Do’ is commonly used.
Have you a pen? (British usage)
Do you have a pen? (American usage)
When ‘Have’ (as a main verb) is used in the sense of take, receive, obtain, Experience etc. ‘Do’ is used to form questions or negatives (both in British and American usage)
E.g. Do you have (take) tea or milk for breakfast?
Did you have (experience) much difficulty in reaching here?
MODALS AT A GLANCE :
Can : Ability, Permission, Request, Possibility
Could : Ability, Request, Possibility,
Shall : Futurity, Willingness,’ Suggestion, Insistence.
Should : Obligation, Advisability, Necessity
Will : Willingness, Prediction, Insistence, Requests In Questions.
Would : Willingness, Habitual Action In Past, Probability
May : Wish Purpose, Permission, Possibility
Might : Possibility, Permission, Concession
Must : Compulsion, Obligation, Prohibition