Semi-modals

Semi-modals are the subcategory of modal verbs. So it is good to learn the difference between modal verbs and semi-modal verbs to use them properly.

"Semi-modals" in the English Grammar

What Are Semi-modal Verbs?

'Semi-modals' (also called pseudo-modals or quasi-modals) are verbs that share some characteristics of modal verbs and some characteristics of main verbs. That is why we have introduced them by their grammatical rules one by one in our lessons. All of them have particular functions. Some are:

  1. to express obligation
  2. to express necessity
  3. to express advice
  4. to express challenges
  5. to express things in the past

Some semi-modals are:

Semi-modals and Their Functions

Ought to

Here are the functions of the semi-modal verb ought to:

No Yes
Shows mood
Describes the action of main verb
Can be used to form questions and negation
Used with another modal verb
Do inflect
Can be to-infinitive and -ing Form

Unlike modal verbs, 'ought to' is followed by to, but like modal verbs, it has the same form for all the persons.

They ought to be too angry about this discord.

You ought to be vomiting after drinking nine bottles of water.

Had Better

Here is the table of the semi-modal had better:

No Yes
Shows mood
Describes the action of main verb
Can be used to form questions and negation
Used with another modal verb
Do inflect
Can be to-infinitive and -ing Form

'Had better' is an expression of the verb 'had' and is treated as a modal verb or as some would classify a 'semi-modal verb.'
'Had better' is used to say what is the best thing to do in a situation that is happening now.

He had better be gone by now.

You had better talk to the principal.

using the semi-modal 'used to' in a sentence

Dare

Here is the table of the semi-modal dare:

No Yes
Shows mood
Describes the action of main verb
Can be used to form questions and negation
Used with another modal verb
Do inflect
Can be to-infinitive and -ing Form -ing (no) to-infinitive (yes)

'Dare' is both a main verb and a semi-modal verb. 'Dare' as a main verb means 'to challenge somebody to do something dangerous, difficult or embarrassing so that they can show that they are brave.' With this meaning, it is the main verb and takes an object. Verbs that follow it are in the to-infinitive form.

I dare you eat the spoiled banana.

'Dare' as a semi-modal verb is used especially in present tense and negative forms, and the verbs after it must be in base form (infinitive without to). You negate dare as a semi-modal exactly in the same way you negate dare as a main verb.

Don't you dare spoil the scene.

Dare Not

We can add 'not' to the semi-modal 'dare' and make it negative.

You daren't fight back cause you know you'll lose.

Need

Here is the table of the modal verb need:

No Yes
Shows mood
Describes the action of main verb
Can be used to form question and negation
Used with another modal verb
Do inflect
Can be to-infinitive and -ing Form

'Need' is another verb in English which can be both a main verb and a semi-modal verb. 'Need' as a main verb means to require something and think something is important to have or to have to or to be obliged to do something.

Alex needs to paint the walls.

In negative sentences, we use semi-modal 'need' to indicate that there is no obligation or necessity to do something. Semi-modal 'need' is used mostly in negative sentences. The term 'not' is directly added to need as a semi-modal.

You needn't stay in a relationship just because you cannot break his heart.

Used to

Here is the table of the semi-modal used to:

No Yes
Shows mood
Describes the action of main verb
Can be used to form questions and negation
Used with another modal verb
Do inflect
Can be to-infinitive and -ing Form

We use 'used to' to say that an action happened continuously, habitually, or frequently during a period in the past, but no longer occurs. When 'used to' is accompanied by the verb 'be,' it talks about an action that you are accustomed to doing it and it is no longer strange.

Gianni used to have long hair.

Didn't you use to smoke?

Going to

Here is the table of the semi-modal going to:

No Yes
Shows mood
Describes the action of main verb
Can be used to form questions and negation
Used with another modal verb
Do inflect
Can be to-infinitive and -ing Form

We use 'going to' when we have the intention to do something before we speak. We have already made a decision before speaking.

I am going to be in London next week.

She is going to wash tonight's dishes.

Have to

Here is the table of the semi-modal have to:

No Yes
Shows mood
Describes the action of main verb
Can be used to form questions and negation
Used with another modal verb
Do inflect
Can be to-infinitive and -ing Form

'Have to' are used in the present to say that something is necessary or should be done. 'Have to' is more common in American English. 'Have to' is used to talk about certainty, giving advice, annoying events, or obligations.

We have to do dishes as soon as possible.

You have to sleep well to be ready for the exam.

Review

Semi-modal verbs are called semi because they have some characteristics of modal verbs and some characteristics of main verbs. They are used to express obligation, necessity, advice, challenges, things in the past using the following terms.

  • ought to
  • had better
  • dare
  • need
  • used to
  • have to

Comments

You might also like

Will and Would

These two modals are often confusing for learners, because they are used in quite similar situations. But they're different.

Shall and Should

'Shall' and 'Should' are like relatives, because 'Should' is the past tense of 'Shall', but they have different functions despite their similarities.

Must and Have to

'Have to' and 'must' have the same meaning and are used to express obligations. However, they are used in different situations and are not interchangeable.

Ought to and Had Better

'Ought to' and 'Had Better' are used for giving advice and recommendations. These are used differently and they can have different meanings. Start learning!

Dare and Need

'Dare' and 'need' have characteristics of both modal verbs and main verbs. Because of this, they are called semi-modals. In this lesson, we'll learn about them.

Used to

One of the functions of this expression is to talk about repeated actions in the past which we don't do in the present.

Download LanGeek app for free