What are Modal Verbs and What are Their Roles in Grammar?
Are you struggling with your English vocabulary? Or finding sentence construction a fatal catastrophe? Then you might want to consider your grammatical flaws seriously. If your vocabulary is ruined, you might face some real issues in other subjects. Worse still, you would not be able to interact well with others. In this blog, you will learn to overcome this critical issue.
The auxiliary verb is used in conjunction with the main verb that reveals time and continuity. But, what are modal verbs? What do they have to do with auxiliary verbs? Modal verbs are auxiliary or helping verbs used to express capability, chances, consent, and/or compulsion. Semi-modals or modal phrases carry resemblance with modal verb examples like can - could, shall - should, will - would, may – might, or must – have to. Semi-modals also fall under the category of a verb, but they help make interrogative and negative sentences. These semi-modal verbs or marginal modal verbs are – used to, need, ought to, etc. Semi-modals have the same function as modals but involve prepositions to and auxiliary verbs.
For instance, the words – ‘be able to’, ‘can’ and ‘could’ can express several concepts in the English language.
Capability or Lack of Capability
Present tense – 1. He can write very well
- They can aidyou in your work.
- Jeremy can’tcome today.
Modals In The Future Tense
Modal verbs also include the “basic verb forms” in the future tense, like:
- Catherine is capable of working better than me.
- They will be able totake you home.
- She won’t be able to comethis Tuesday.
Modals In The Past Tense
In Past tense, modal verbs appear as –
‘would or wouldn't’, along with a basic form of the verb.
For example – I would have gone further yesterday.
In this case, the words like was or were connects with the base form of the verb.
The words wasn’t or weren’t also fall in this category like –
We weren’t going to my father’s house after all. Or,
He hasn’t yet completed his homework.
The future auxiliary will and an infinitive (to verb) cannot go with words like can and could.
The saying “I can to assist him this evening” sounds incorrect.
But, “I can assist him this evening” is correct.
You can also structure your sentence like – I will (I’ll) be able to go tonight.
Grammatical Role of Modals in Probability
Modal verbs also apply for cases of Possibility or Impossibility with the words can or can’t
- They can take a cab from here.
- She can’t serve food tonight.
Modal verbs also function as – I could run an errand from this location.
Permissive Character in Modals
When people ask for permission, then they use modal verbs like –
- Can he buy me that drink? Or
- He can work
Or, you can use them to make a suggestion like – You might want to take a leave tomorrow.
Modal verbs also contain words like may or, might and their uses can be like –
- He may begin his speech now. Or,
- She may not speak here.
You may use this verb form also when you make polite requests like
- May I come in? or
- Should they leave now?
Possibility or Negative Possibility
For possibility or negative possibility instances, the verb form of may or might come into play.
- They may visit our house today.
- We might want to postpone the project.
Similarly, for negative possibilities, it can be –
- Susan and Will might not want the apartment. Or,
- Jack and Harry may not sing together.
Modal verbs can also be used for polite suggestions. For example – She might want to taste that dish.
Use of shall, should, ought to
The verbs – shall, should and ought to indicate a polite suggestion. These verbs from the modal verbs list are also used to indicate assistance. The verb “shall” is used only in "I" or "we". But, during formal English communication, the verb “will” gets replaced by “shall”.
Sometimes modal verbs help frame the question when the speaker cannot guarantee a positive answer. Like – “Should you go to work today?”
They can also help construct a statement of expectation or prediction like – They will be expecting me on time, so I shouldn’t be late. Or our project should be over by Friday.
These modal verbs can also help state advice with words like ought to and should. For instance, Ought you to eat in the kitchen? Or We should get back to work now.
You can also use modal verbs to advise something unacceptable or improper. For example, Rachel mustn’t leave so early. Or, They shouldn’t have left the dog alone.
Modal Verbs During Need Or Forbiddance
The present form of the modal verb includes statements like “They must get a raincoat in this storm. Or, “Jacob has to reach his office on time.”
Both these statements apply in the present tense. However, the structure changes to "He has to get down at the bakery before reaching home.” in the future tense.
Modal verbs in case of the past tense can be –
They had to leave the dog at home alone. Or,
We needed to gather yesterday for counseling.
There are occasions when the verb need to expresses less-urgent things and involves a choice. But, in general, both – need to and have to are usable in similar cases.
The verb must declares complete certainty. For example –
Since he runs so fast, he must be very good at sports.
It also adds a persuasive essence to the sentence. Like – They must reach school on time.
In the above examples, we find the different use of these modal verbs for various types of need. But now, we shall witness the use of these modals toward forbiddance (i.e. to forbid)
As a modal verb, the verb must also suggest prohibition or forbiddance. Example – They must not play here. Or, She mustn’t work till late at night. Similarly, it is also applicable when there is no need. For instance, you don’t need to wake early, or they didn't bring their books. In like manner, the verb form – He needn’t come at my place last night.
The modal verbs list given above can help frame a basic idea about modal verbs the nature and function of modal verbs. In this blog, we discussed the character and importance of modal verbs in English. We have also seen how the construction of each of these verbs forms meaningful sentences. But the most important thing to remember is that modal verbs have their roots in auxiliary verbs. Hence, you need first to understand auxiliary verbs to get modal verbs.
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