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Language is not always used simply to exchange information by making simple statements and asking questions. Sometimes you want to make request: offer or suggestions: or to express your wishes or intentions: You may want to be polite or tactful or to indicate your feelings about what you are saying. Modals enable you to do these things with English.
Modals are, thus, a special kind of auxiliary (helping) verbs which are used with the main verbs to express the speaker’s attitude towards the action.
Study the following diagram:
Now try to understand the difference between the two categories of Auxiliaries.
We observe that in all these sentences the main idea is expressed by the Principal Verbs. But, the words in the second column add something to the idea expressed by the Principal Verbs. This ‘something’ is the speaker’s attitude towards the action. Together with the principal verbs that follow, they express the mode’ or ‘manner in which something is done. Hence these words are called Modals.
In sentence (1) the use of ‘will’ expresses Determination.
2.In sentence (2) the use of ‘shall’ expresses Promise.
In sentence (3) the use of ‘should’ gives Advice.
In sentence (4) the use of ‘would’ expresses the Imagined Result of an Imagined condition.
In sentence (5) the use of ‘can’ expresses the Ability to do something.
In sentence (6) the use of ‘could’ expresses the Ability to do something in the past.
In sentence (7) the use of ‘may’ grants Permission to do something.
In sentence (8) the use of ‘alight’ expresses a Possibility.
In sentence (9) the use of ‘must’ expresses Compulsion or Necessity.
In sentence (10) the use of ‘ought to’ expresses Obligation.
In sentence (11) the use of ‘used to’ expresses a Habit in the past.
In sentences (12). (13) And (14) the use of ‘has to’. ‘Had to’ and ‘shall have to’ expresses Necessity or Obligation.
USE OF MODALS
(a) ‘Can’ is used to show the Ability to do something.‘Use of ‘CAN’
1.He can solve this sum.
2.I can drive a car.
3.She can speak English.
4.I can swim across the river.
5.He can type 80 words per minute.
In all these sentences, ‘can’ expresses the ability to do something. It means: be able to, know how to be capable of. For example sentence
(1) can be rewritten as under :
He is able to solve this sum.
He is capable of solving this sum.
He knows how to solve this sum.
Note: Inability is expressed by ‘Cannot‘. It means: be incapable of or be unable to
1.He cannot drive a car.
2.I cannot help you in this matter.
3.He can’t hear. He is deaf.
(b) ‘Can’ is used to seek or grant Permission in an Informal trimmer.
1.You can go home now.
2.Can I smoke here?
3.You coo come whenever you like.
4.You can go only when you have finished your work.
5.Can I have an ice-cream mother?
All these sentences show that the subject is granting or seeking permission to do something. Here ‘can’ means: be permitted to, be allowed to, We can re-write these sentences as :
1.You are allowed to go home now. (Sentence 1)
2.Am I allowed to smoke here? (Sentence 2)
Note: When permission is not granted, ‘cannot’ is used.
Then ‘Cannot’ express prohibition.
1.You cannot go before you have finished your work.
2.You cannot travel without a ticket.
3.One cannot drink in public places.
4.The visitors cannot park their cars at the gate.
In all these sentences, certain actions are-prohibited.
(c) ‘Can’ is used to express a Possibility. The use of ‘can’ usually shows a theoretical possibility i.e., the possibility of a certain happening.
1.Out uncle has come to Delhi lie can visit us tomorrow.
2.Pets can be very troublesome.
3.Anyone can make such mistakes.
4.Accident can happen to anyone. In all these sentences, the use of ‘can’ expresses the possibility of an idea.
Note: ‘Cannot’ is used to express Impossibility.
1.I’m afraid I cannot tell you that. It is a secret
2.She cannot be his mother. She is too young.
(d) In general statements. ‘Can’ has the same meaning as Sometimes or on sonic occasions .
1.He can be rude.
It means: He is Sometimes very rude.
2.Delhi can be very cold in winter.
(e) ‘Can’t help‘ is an idiomatic expression. It means can’t avoid.
1.I can’t help laughing at his foolish remarks.
‘Use of ‘COULD’
(a) ‘Could’ is used to express the past tense of ‘Can’
1.He could drive a car at tic age of ten.
2.My uncle could speak live languages.
3.He said that 1 could go whenever I liked.
(b) ‘Could’ Is used to express Ability in the past.
1.I could swim across the river when I was young.
2.She could speak English when she was ten.
3.Twenty years ago I could run a mile in ten minutes.
In these sentences, the use of ‘could’ expresses the ability to do something in the past. These sentences can be re-written as under:
1.I was able to swim across the river when I was young
2.She was able to speak English when she was ten.
3.Twenty years ago I was able to run a mile in ten minutes.
Note: The idea of Inability in the past is expressed by ‘Could not’.
1.Five years ago he could not even feed his children.
2.They could not understand it because it was too difficult.
(c) ‘Could have‘ expresses an Ability which was not made use of:
1.He could have availed himself of the opportunity… (But he did not)
2.We could have finished the work in time. (But we did not)
(d) ‘Could’ is used to express Possibility in teeth anal sentences.
1.if I had the money. I could buy that house.
2.He could write in neat hand if he chose.
3.I could have helped him d he bad asked me.
4.He could be successful if he had tried hard.
(e) ‘Could’ is used to seek Permission or make a Polite Request. In the form of a question.
1.Could I finish my work tomorrow and go home now?
2.Could I have a pay-rise’?
3.Could I open the window?
4.Could you lend me your book for a day?
5.Could you postpone the meeting for two days?
Note 1. The same idea can be expressed by using ‘can’ or ‘may’ However the use of ‘could’ suggests that the permission is sought in a polite and hesitant manner.
Note 2. ‘Would’ can be used in place of ‘could, but ‘Could’ is a little more polite.
‘Use of ‘MAY’
(a) ‘May’ is used to speak or grant Permission in formal manner
1.May I leave now?
2.You may go home when you have finished your work.
3.You may ask for anything you want.
4.May I come in, Sir?
Note: We can use ‘can’ to seek or grant permission. But, the use of ‘May’ is considered more formal and more polite.
(b) ‘May’ is used to express a ‘Factual’ Possibility – the possibility of a fact.
1.The sky is overcast with clouds. It may rain.
2.I am feeling well now. I may attend the meeting.
3.Light is dim. The match may be delayed.
4.The government may take steps to cheek rising prices.
Note: ‘Can’ is also used to express a Possibility. However, the use of ‘May’ expresses a stronger possibility than ‘can’ does.
(c) ‘May’ is used in the subordinate clause to express a Purpose.
1.He works hard so that he may get good marks.
2.We eat that we may live.
(d) ‘May’ is used to express a Personal Wish if that wish concerns someone else
1.May you live long!
2.May you prosper? My son!
3.May his soul rest in peace!
4.May God bless you!
Use of ‘MIGHT`
(a) ‘Might’ is used to express the past tense of ‘May’.
1.I was afraid that if I asked him again he night refuse it.
(b) ‘Might’ is used to express extreme Politeness while seeking permission or making a request.
1.Might I have a word with you?
2.There is little chance of success, but you might by again.
3.Might I make a suggestion?
(c) ‘Might’ is used to express a Doubtful Possibility, i.e., something which is possible, but not very likely.
1.He has not promised, but he might come.
2.Now that he has got a job he might be thinking of marriage.
3.He might have applied for the Job, but I am not sure.
Note 1: ‘May’ or ‘Might’ is used in conditional sentences to express a possible result.
1.If you apologies, he may forgive you.
2.If we do not hire a taxi, we might miss the train.
Note 2: Might + perfect infinitive is used in speculation about a past action.
1.He might have disclosed the secret.
2.He might have gone without telling anybody.
Use of ‘WILL’
(a) ‘Will’ is used with the second person and the third person to form Future Tense.
1.You will get promotion in due course.
2.She will be sixteen next month.
3.He will leave for Mumbai tomorrow.
4.They will ask her to sing in the party.
5.Ravi will be thirty next birthday.
Here. ‘Will’ does not have any modal value. It is used to express pure future, i.e., to make a statement of future fact, where only Time is &evolved.
(b) ‘Will’ is used with the first person to express Willingness and Offer.
1.I will supply the things you need.
2.We will help you as far as possible.
(c) ‘Will’ Is used with the first person to express Determination.
1.I will mend my ways.
2.We will give him a warm reception.
3.I will tight till last.
4.1 will fight the election whatever may be the result.
5.We will hold the party in spite of heavy rains.
(d) Will’ is used with the first person to express Promise and Intention.
1.I will agree to anything.
2.We will give him a warm reception.
3.I will not take more than an hour.
(e) ‘Will’ is used with the first person to express a Threat.
1.I will have him punished.
2.We will take some strong step to mend you.
3.I will let him know who the master here is.
(f) ‘Will’ is used with the second person to express a Polite Request.
1.Will you post this letter for me please?
2.Win you type this letter for me?
3.Will you please close the door?
Note: The use of ‘will you’ expresses a polite request. It is not to ask a question.
(g) ‘Will you’ is used in exclamations. Then it is really an order.
1.Will you keep quite!
2.Will you stop bothering me!
(h) ‘Will’ is used with the second person to express a Polite Invitation.
1.Will you have another cup of tea?
2.Will you attend my birthday party?
(i) ‘Will’ is used to enquire about the Intention, Willingness and Wish of the person spoken to.
1.Will you accompany me to the railway station?
2.Will he agree to my proposal?
3.Will they concede to our demands?
(j) ‘Will’ is used to express a Prediction or introduce an Assumption.
1.He will never deceive me.
2.If you do not mend your ways you will be ruined.
3.He will have posted the letter.
4.You will have heard about his death.
Use of ‘SHALL’
(a) ‘Shall’ is used with the first person to express Simple Future, i.e… When only Time is involved.
1.I shall see him some time.
2.We shall leave for Calcutta this evening.
3.I shall see you tomorrow.
(b) ‘Shall’ is used with the second person and the third person to express a Command.
1.I say you shall do it.
2.He shall report for duty tomorrow.
3.’You shall marry the girl of my choice, said the angry father.
(c) ‘Shall’ is used with the second person and the third person to express a Threat.
1.He shall be punished for his misbehaviour.
2.They shall report against us if we do not behave properly.
3.He shall turn you out of the Job.
(d) ‘Shall’ is used with the second person and the third person to give a Promise or an Assurance.
1.You shall get a bicycle if you get ‘A’ grade.
2.Ask for a reward and you shall have it.
3.He has promised that he shall not harm you.
(e) ‘Shall’ is used in questions with the first person to know what the person addressed Wishes or Suggests or Thinks.
1.Shall I fetch a doctor?
(It means: Do you wish me to fetch a doctor?)
2.Shall we dance?
3.Shall I make a cup of tea for you?
4.Shall I get the first prize for my fine performance?
In these questions the speaker wants to know the desire or wish of the person addressed. In all these sentences, it is the person addressed (You) who is to decide.
‘Use of WOULD’
(a) ‘Would’ is used to refer to the Past form of ‘win’ and ‘shall’
1.He said that he would look into the matter himself.
2.We were informed that he would preside over the meeting.
3.The announcement said that the train would arrive at platform No. 3.
(b) ‘Would’ is used to express happenings or actions that were frequent or occurred from time to time.
1.Every Sunday he would visit his uncle.
2.My grandmother would feed sparrows every morning.
3.I would sit with my grandmother for hours to listen to the fairy tales.
4.Sometimes he would come home drunk and shout at his children.
5.In the evenings he would go to the bank of the stream and sit there watching the fishes.
(c) ‘Would’ is used to express a Suggestion or Polite Request.
1.Would you lend me your book?
2.Would you post this letter for me, please?
3.Would you mind accompanying me to the railway station?
4.Would you close the door?
Note; The same idea can be expressed with ‘will’ The use of ‘would’ however shores that the person who is suggesting or requesting is hesitant’ and slightly more polite.
(d) ‘Would’ is used in conditional sentences to express the Imagined Result of an imagined or supposed condition.
1.If I were you, I would help him.
2.I Intl he worked hard, he would have passed.
3.I would open a hospital if I won a lottery.
(e) The expression ‘would like to is used to express a wish or preference.
1.I would like to ask you for a favour.
2.Lie would like to go with us.
Note: The expression would rather is also used to express a wish or preference.
1.I would rather starve than beg.
2.I would rather have a cold drink than a cup of coffee.
(f) I would’ is used to express a Hopeless Wish.
1.If only nations would stop going to war.
2.If only it would stop raining.
The sentences express a wish that is not likely to be fulfilled.
(g) ‘Would’ is used after wish when the wish concerns the future action of another person.
1.I wish you would leave me alone.
2.I wish he would behave properly.
(h) ‘Would’ is used to express an enquiry about someone’s wish.
1.Would you like to have a cup of coffee?
2.Would you like to accompany us to the cinema?
Use of ‘SHOULD’
(a) ‘Should’ is used to give Advice.
This advice may be given to a particular person, or it may be general statement of what is good.
1.You should not buy that house.
2.You should look into the matter yourself.
3.A man should search Isis mind to know what he wants to be.
4.A rich man should use his wealth for the good of others.
This Advice may be concerned with something that is useful entertaining etc.
1.The picture is very Interesting …………. you should go and see it.
2.You should buy a new pen this one leaks,
(b) ‘Should’ is used to express a Duty or a moral Obligation.
1.You should keep vote- promise.
2.You should obey your proems.
3.We should not desert our friends at the hour of need.
4.You should pay taxes in time.
5.You should not be rude to your servants.
Note: ‘Should’ is less forceful than ‘must’. It does not imply compulsion or command The Statement with should is more like an advice than a command.
(c) ‘Should’ is used in written instructions to express a Polite Command.
Candidate should write on either side of the page .
(d) ‘Should’ is used to express a Probable Condition.
1.Should he work hard he will pass.
2.Should they play well, they wilt will.
(e) ‘Should’ is used in conditional sentences to express a Supposition.
1.If it should rain, we shall cancel the party.
2.It he should come ask him to want for me.
3.She is so changed that you will not recognize her if you should meet her now.
(f) Read the following sentences and note the use of ‘Should’ in specific situations .
1.That we should meet here! (Surprise at something unexpected)
2.It is really sad that she should reject my proposal. (Surprise at on unexpected behaviour) 3. You should have consulted a doctor years ago. (A sensible action in the past which was not performed)
3.He should not have misbehaved. (Disapproval at an unwise action)
4.The old man is walking with care lest he should stumble.
5.He should be here by now. (An assumption)
‘Use of ‘MUST’
(a) ‘Must’ is used to express Duty, Compulsion, Necessity and Obligation.
1.You must clear the dues before the 10th of March. (Compulsion)
2.We must hurry. We are very late. (Necessity)
3.It is getting pretty dark, I must leave or home. (Duty)
4.We must devote sometime to social service. (Obligation)
(b) ‘Must’ is used to express an Emphatic Advice.
1.You must see a doctor at once.
2.You must inform the police of the accident.
(c) ‘Must’ is used to express some Strong Possibility, i.e., Certainty.
1.Someone is knocking at the door. It must be the postman.
2.You must be dreaming!
3.He must be at least forty year old.
4.There must be mistake somewhere.
5.He must be mad to say so.
Note 1: ‘Must not’ express a prohibition.
1.You mustn’t come here again.
2.Candidates mustn’t write their names on the answer books.
Note 2: The Past Tense of ‘must’ (to express certainty or inference is ‘must have’ e.g., Mohan must have passed. He had been working quite hard.
Note 3 : The Past Tense of ‘must’ (to express necessity) is ‘had to’ e.g., The candidates had to appear for an interview after the written lest.
Use of ‘OUGHT TO’
(a) ‘Ought to’ is used to express some Moral Duty or Social Obligation.
1.We ought to love our neighbours.
2.Society ought to look after the handicapped.
.Students ought to obey their teachers.
Note 1: The idea of obligation can be expressed with ‘should’ and ‘must’ also. However ought to is used when a feeling of duly is involved.
Note 2 : The negative form of ‘Ought to’ is ‘Ought not to’.
(b) ‘Ought to have + The Past Participle’ is used to express an obligatory action to the past which was not performed.
1.You ought to have helped your brother in difficulty.
2.He ought to have looked after his aged parents.
3.You ought to have prepared well for the examination.
Use of ‘NEED’
NEED is used in two ways:
(i) as a regular verb :
e.g.. We need rest alter hard work.
(ii) as a modal (used only in questions and negative sentences) :
(a) In questions. ‘Need’ is used, wherever there is a strong element of doubt or when the speaker expects a negative answer e.g.. Need I go there?
(b) ‘Need not’ is used to express the lack of necessity or obligation to do something It is the opposite of ‘must’.
e.g.. You need not see him; just write a letter.
We need not hurry. We have yet plenty of time.
Note: The past of need is expressed with need have:
E g.. Need hare he taken all that trouble?
He needn’t have taken all that trouble or He didn’t need to take all that trouble.
Use of ‘DARE’
DARE means ‘to venture’. It is used in negative sentences and questions; as.
1.He dare not oppose me.
2.How dare you enter the girl-hostel?
Use of ‘USED TO’
(a) Use to ‘express A Habit in the Past.
1.My uncle used to go for a walk every morning when he was alive.
2.I used to visit my untie every Sunday: now I go only once a month.
3.My grandmother used to feed sparrows when she lived in a village.
Note: (a) ‘Used to’ does not hone a Present Tense form.
(b) ‘Used to be’ express something that existed to the past.
There used to be a park where they have set up a shopping centre.
‘Use of HAS/HAVE TO, HAD TO, SHALL/ WILL HAVE TO
‘Has/Have to’, ‘Had to and ‘Shall/ will have to’ are used to express necessity or obligation. .
(a) In Present Tense, we use ‘has/have to; as:
1.I have to finish my home-task by 4 p.m.
2.The watchman has to open the school gate at 6 a.m. every day.
3.The patient has to see the doctor.
(b) In Past Tense, we use ‘had to’: as
1.I had to milk the cow yesterday.
2.I had to cook food because my mother was not feeling well.
(c) In Future Tense, we use ‘will have to’ with the First Person; and ‘shall have to’ with the Second Person and the Third Person, as
1.I will have to work a bit hard to top the class.
2.You shall have to pay a fine of Rs. 20 for not attending the extra classes.
Study the following table giving details of usage of modals:
|Modal||The meaning it adds to the Principal Verb |
7. Ought to
8. Use to
|‘Shall’ with the second person and the third person and ‘Will’ with the first person – willingness. Intention. Determination, promise ,command and assurance .|
Advisability, obligation and expectation.
Willingness. habitual action in the past, wishes, desires, polite request. probability.
Ability, Polite request, possibility. permission (informal manner).
Factual possibility. permission (formal manner), purpose, wish, (of personal nature and concerning someone else).
Duty, necessity, compulsion strong possibility (certainty)
Moral duty or obligation.
Habitual action in the Past.
Modal Verb Rules, Exercises and Worksheets No. 1,2&3
Modal Verb Rules, Exercises and Worksheets No. 4,5,&6
Modal Verb Rules, Exercises and Worksheets No. 7,8&9
Modal Verb Rules, Exercises and Worksheets No. 10,11&12
Modal Verb Rules, Exercises and Worksheets No. 13,14&15
Modal Verb Rules, Exercises and Worksheets No. 16,17&18
Modal Verb Rules, Exercises and Worksheets No. 19,20&21