Modals part one

Skill: Grammar  

Category: General English & Academic English

Level: Upper-Intermediate

Modals

Modal auxiliary verbs are used to show the speaker’s attitude. For instance, the speaker may feel something is permissible, possible, probable, advisable and necessary. In addition, they can also show how strong an attitude can be.  

Modal auxiliaries in English

Can                  may                 had better                    ought to                       should

Could              might               must                            shall                             will                  would

Some tips for modal verbs:

– Even if the subject is singular—he, she, it—modal verbs never take (s)

            INCORRENT: He wills see you.

            CORRECT: He will see you.

– Modal auxiliary verbs are directly followed by simple form of the verb.

            CORRECT: He can play the piano.

            INCORRECT: He can to play the piano. He can played the piano.

Note: There is only one exception with ought which is followed by to + the simple form of a verb.

            CORRECT: He ought to park his car in the parking lot.

Phrasal Modals:

Phrasal modals are common expressions that have the same meaning as modals themselves. For instance, be able to which is a phrasal modal is similar to can and be going to is similar to will.

            be able to                     be going to                  be supposed to

            have to                        have got to

Using modals to express necessity: Must, have to have got to

Both have to and must express necessity.

Ex: All students have to take the final exam to pass the course.

Ex: All students must take the final exam to pass the course.

There is no other choice for students. The exam is required.

Note:

  • Have to is more common than must in everyday speech and writing.
  • Must is much stronger than have to and it shows an urgent situation.
  • For legal information, writing instructions and offering rules, must is preferred.

Ex: Cell phones must be turned off during exam. (This is very important and must be followed as a rule)

  • Mostly, adults use “must” when they talk to children about rules.

Ex: You must wash your hands before eating something.

  • Have to is commonly used in question rather than must.

Ex: Do you have to stay home on Fridays?

Have got to:

It is informal and mostly it is used in spoken English.

Ex: I have got to study now. I have a difficult exam tomorrow.

Note. The usual pronunciation of got to is “gotta”. Possibly sometimes have is not used in spoken form “I gotta study.”

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