This post is to give you a little bit more information about modal verbs. I introduced modals in an earlier post (please do take a look, if you haven’t already) but I didn’t want to cram everything I possibly could into one piece of writing because then you’re likely to get a massive headache and switch off! So little bits in (chocolate-covered) bite sized pieces is I think far better.
Sometimes called auxiliary verbs, these words help another verb, the MAIN verb, to create the mood, voice, condition or tense of the written or spoken text.
example: My cats are very nimble. They could leap really high even when they were young kittens.
You can see how the second sentence would be different if it did not have the modal could assisting leap. Without it the sentence would appear to be talking in the present tense and given the phrase ‘even when they were young kittens‘ is used, this wouldn’t make the best possible sense. So the modal could is used and assists the main verb leap to convey a fuller meaning.
* can * could * might * may * shall * should * ought to * will
Some modals show ability, prediction, speculation or possibility, while others deal with requests, necessity, deduction or permission. Look at the list of modals above and see if you can assign them to ability, prediction, speculation, possibility, etc, etc.
How certain/uncertain about something you sound will depend upon the modal you choose.
e.g. Could you open the window please? Will you open the window please?
One of these sounds more like an order than the other, but can you tell which one?
REMEMBER THESE POINTS:
- Modals have no past forms
- There’s no -(e)s endings for third person
- They have no infinitive forms
- They have no present participle forms
- Negatives are formed by adding not / n’t
- Questions are formed by the inversion of modal with subject
Modals have no past forms
I’d told her she
mayed leave the cat treats by the back door = INCORRECT
I’d told her she may leave the cat treats by the back door = CORRECT
There’s no -(e)s endings for third person
I want / you want / he wants = CORRECT
I would / you would / she woulds = INCORRECT
They have no infinitive forms
to might, to should, to will = INCORRECT
They have no present participle forms
ing finish your homework = INCORRECT
You should finish your homework = CORRECT
Negatives are formed by adding not / n’t
The cats couldn’t jump the gate because it was too high.
I will not listen to another word of your lies.
Questions are formed by the inversion of modal with subject
Should I wait for you?
I should wait for you.
Keep checking in people because you know we’ve not finished with modal verbs yet!