Modals in English Grammar
In the country of verbs, 'modals' is one of its states where its population are special kinds of verbs. They have their own rules and behave differently.
Modal verbs (also called modals or modal auxiliary verbs), are special verbs which give additional information about the function of the main verb that follows them. Modals have a wide variety of communicative functions (i.e. modality), such as:
- Lack of necessity
Characteristics of Modal Verbs
Here are some characteristics of modal verbs:
- They never change their form. You can't add 's', 'ed', 'ing'...
- They are usually followed by an infinitive without 'to' (i.e. the bare infinitive.)
- They make questions by inversion ('she can go' becomes 'can she go?')
- Modal verbs are negated by the addition of the word not after them
- Modals can appear in tag questions without the main verb being expressed (...can he?, Would they?)
English Modal Verbs
The principal English modal verbs are:
|can||ability, permission, possibility|
|could||ability in the past, polite permission, possibility|
|may||permission, possibility, probability|
|might||polite permission, possibility, probability|
|must||strong obligation, logical conclusion, certainty|
|should||obligation, advice, logical conclusion|
|will||wish, request, demand, order, habit|
|would||wish, request, habits in the past|
Present-past Pairs of Modals
Some of the modals come in present–past pairs:
Note that the past forms are not necessarily used to refer to past time, and in some cases they are near synonyms to the present forms.
Some verbs share only some of the characteristics of the modals. These verbs are called semi-modals (or pseudo-modals or quasi-modals).
Some of the semi-modals of English are:
- Ought to
- Had better
- Used to