Modal Auxiliary Verbs
(2021 ഏപ്രില് ലക്കം)
- All auxiliary Verbs except be, do and have are called Modals.
be = is / was / are / were / am
do = do / does / did 11
have = have / has / had
- Auxiliary verbs are helping verbs.
- Auxiliaries are 24 in number. The 11 auxiliaries mentioned above are called Primary Auxiliary Verbs. Other 13 are called Modal Auxiliary Verbs
- 13 Modals are as follows :
Can / could / may / might
Shall / should / will / would
Ought to / used to 13
Must / need / dare
- Primary Auxiliary Verbs are used to form tenses, active and passive voices and the negative form.
- Primary Auxiliaries change their forms according to the tense, number and person of the subject.
eg: 1. He is reading / He was reading
- They are reading / They were reading
- I am reading / I was reading
- He does not read / He did not read
- They do not read / They did not read
- He has written / He had written
- They have written / They had written
to infinitive bare infinitive
to read read
to write write
to go go
eg: can read could read
may read might read
shall read will read
should read would read
- Modals, unlike main verbs, do not have –ing forms and the III person singular forms
(the – s endings)
Caning X Cans X
Shelling X shells X
Mighting X might’s X
- Modals are used before ordinary verbs to express different meanings such as :
- Modals are used when we want to express not what actually happened, but the possibility or necessity of some action or someone’s ability to do it.
- Modals are sometimes called Defective Verbs as they do not have the Infinitive and participle forms.
Modals and their meanings they express
|Can||ability, permission, request, possibility|
|Could||ability, permission, request, possibility|
|Shall||Futurity, willingness, intention, suggestion, insistence|
|Should||Obligation, necessity, advice, expectation|
|Will||Futurity, willingness, intention, prediction, requests, insistence|
|Would||Willingness, habitual action in the past, wishes, purpose|
|May||Permission, possibility, wishes, purpose|
|Might||Permission, possibility, concession|
|Must||Necessity, certainty, probability, prohibition, obligation|
A canner (1) can (2) can (3)
Anything that he can (4)
But a canner can’t can (5) a can (6) can he ?
- Canner = a man who puts things in a can
- Can = (helping verb) has the ability
- Can = preserve (anything)
- Can = (helping verb) can (do)
- Can = fill ( a can)
- Can = a container
- Can = helping verb in the question tag
- The word can is used as a noun, main verb and a helping verb
- Can is used to say that something is possible.
Eg: 1. You can achieve the goal if you repeat it daily
- If you swim after eating, you can get cramps
- I suppose anything can happen now
- Can is used in the sense of may to give permission
Eg: 1. You can select, as you like = you are permitted to select
- You can go now
- Can I come in, sir ? [May I come in ?]
- To say that someone has the ability to do something
Eg: 1) He will be selected as he can draw pictures
2) Can you speak English ?
3) She can drive heavy vehicles
4) He can lift that desk
- Can is used with verbs like see, hear, feel and remember
Eg: I can remember the name of my class teacher who taught me grammar in L.P.
NB: For asking permission may is better than can.
- Could refers to present time as well as past time.
- Could is used
Could in the Present Tense
- To make polite requests or ask for permission.
Eg: 1. Could I borrow your bicycle ?
[ = Can I borrow your bicycle ?
May I borrow your bicycle ? ]
- Could I have a glass of water , please ?
- Could you tell me the way to the State Bank ?
- Could is used to express less positive version of
Eg: I will attend the party ( If you are ready )
I can attend the party ( If you are hesitant )
I could attend the party ( If you are more hesitant )
Could in the Past Tense
- To replace can in reported speech
- “You can’t go out now,” said he.
He told me that I couldn’t go out then.
- Reji said to saji, “Can you follow him ?”
Reji asked saji whether he could follow him.
- Could indicate ability in the past
Eg: 1. I could ride a horse in my younger days.
- [ Could shows only ability to ride and not the action ]
- To show the ability + action in the past, was able to / were able to should be used instead of could.
Eg: I could answer all the questions and so I expect very high marks. ( incorrect)
I was able to answer all the questions and so I expect very high marks (correct)
N.B: In negative sentences and interrogative sentences could is correct and not was able to
Eg: 1. I could not understand its meaning
I was not able to understand its meaning (incorrect)
- Could you exchange your answer sheets ?
Were you able to exchange your answer sheets (incorrect)
- Could is used to express possibility or uncertainty with unreal condition (II type if clause)
Eg: 1. If he tried hard, he could succeed.
- If he was ready, he could solve the problem
- To express future possibility
There could be more trouble in future.
- Seeking permission
Eg: 1. May I come in, please ?”
“Yes, you may.”
- “May I take back my exercise book, teacher ?”
“No, you may not”
Note : It is not easy to say mayn’t.
So cannot (can’t) is preferable.
Eg: “May I watch cartoons, Dad ?”
“No you can’t.”
- May is used to express possibility.
Eg: 1. The minister may come or may not
- The menace of corona virus may come to an end soon.
- India may became a super power.
- May is used in expressing a wish
Eg: May you prosper in all that you do !
May god bless you !
- May is used in adverb clause of purpose.
Eg: Eat that you may live; don’t live that you may eat.
- Might is the Past Tense of may. It is used in in Reported Speech.
Eg: He said, “I may report the matter to the manager.”
He said that he might report the matter to the manager.
- Might is used to indicate a more doubtful possibility than may
Eg: 1. The patient may recover
The patient might recover (less positive than may recover)
- It may rain tomorrow
It might rain tomorrow (less positive than may rain)
- Might is used to
Eg: 1. Might I start reading ?
- Might I begin to reveal the truth ?
- Might is used when you want to be extremely polite during a discussion or when you wish to express gentle reproach.
Eg: 1. If I might make a suggestion, couldn’t we have one more sitting on the coming
Sunday ? (Polite request)
- Really, Mr. Carry, you might have told me this before.
- Shall / will
- Shall is used with I person ( I / We) to indicate the simple future
Eg: We shall be going to Goa tomorrow
(We’ll be going to Goa tomorrow)
Note : ‘ll may be the contraction of either shall or will
- Will is used with II and III persons (You / He / She ) to indicate simple futurity.
Eg: 1. He will start at 4 p.m.
- Our manager will reach here on coming Monday.
- You will reach the office on time, if you take an auto rickshaw.
- Will he come tomorrow ?
Other uses of will
- Determination :
- I will change the system of our organization.
- I will make all the arrangements for the party.
- I will marry her, in spite of her poverty.
- I will give you a gift of your choice
- I will help you without any delay
- I will reserve a ticket for you.
- I will teach him a lesson
- You will do no such thing in future
- You will be punished for your wickedness
- Well, in that case, I will call at your office
- All right, we will join your party
- I will accept your offer
- Will you please help me ?
- Will you repeat the same thing, Sir ?
- Will you lend me your bicycle ?
- You will do as I instruct
- You will strictly follow the rules and regulations
- If Clause ( I Type)
- If you play well, you will win
- If you work hard, you will score high marks
Other uses of shall
- Command (with II and III persons)
- You shall quit the place
- He shall be dismissed for negligence of duty
- Nobody shall leave this place.
- Promise (II and III persons)
- He shall get a bicycle
- He shall be honoured
- Obligation (II and III persons)
- You shall obey your elders
- Thou shall not steal
- Interrogative Sentences (with I person)
- Shall I buy a new sari ?
- When shall I get the reply ?
- Request (with I person)
- Shall I have a cup of tea ?
- Shall I come with you ?
- Suggestion (with I person)
- Shall we rearrange the furniture
- Shall we invite his sister ?
- Shall I carry your bag ?
- To express duty or obligation
- I should help her
- You should not be lazy
- You should respect your elders.
- You should keep your promise
- Children should obey their parents
- Should / would as a polite form of want
- I would like you to help her.
[ I want you to help her ]
- I should like you to help her.
- To express opinion, recommendation, advice, expectation etc.
- You should visit Agra (recommendation)
- You should be in office by 10 a.m. (expectation)
- By now, they should have reached Bangalore
- To give or take advice or suggestion
- We should obey our elders
- You should read regularly
- One should not spit out of a window
- After lest when someone expresses fear.
- Walk carefully lest you should fall down
- They started early lest they should miss the train
Note : lest is the negative of so that
- Should is used with the first person in main clauses which are preceded or followed by a clause expressing unreal condition [ II type if clause ]
- I should accept his offer, if I were you.
- If I were a doctor, I should not reject his appeal.
- Should is used to express wishes or desires in a polite way.
- I should like to point out that your suggestion is impracticable.
- I should like to bring the notice of the municipal chairman the terrible condition of our roads.
- To express habitual action in the past.
Simple past tense and used to are also used to express the same thing.
- He used to drink a cup of coffee early in the morning
He drank a cup of coffee early in the morning
He would drink a cup of coffee early in the morning
- He used to go to school by bus
He would go to school by bus.
- For request
- Would you please give me your bike ?
- Would you like to spend this evening with me ?
- Would you mind my sitting here ?
- Would you please stand up ?
- Would you prefer tea or coffee ?
- Would you like some milk ?
- Would you like to have another cup of tea ?
Note : Would is more polite than will.
- Used to / would
- To express habitual action in the past.
- They used to stay with us when they were young.
[= They would stay with us when they were young]
- We used to play chess in the afternoon
[= we would play chess in the afternoon]
- He used to smoke
- She used to be late
- Used to is also used as Principal Verb
- He didn’t used to play football in his youth
- Did he used to play football in his youth ?
- He didn’t used to behave in this way.
- To give an opinion, a strong suggestion or an invitation
- You must read this book. It is very interesting
- You must come and see us when you are in India
- You mustn’t talk loudly in the class.
- To express futurity
- You must see your class teacher tomorrow.
- To express necessity, obligation or recommendation
- We must stand for humankind
- You must take some physical exercise
- We must get up early
- To Indicate assumption or conclusion
- She must be here in the evening
- He must be a good teacher
- In case of prohibition
- You must not play after 6 p.m
- You must not bunk school
- Must refers to the Present or Future
- We must see the D.E.O now (Present)
- You must meet him in the afternoon (Future)
- After the discussion, you must pay the compensation (Future)
- Must refers to the past, only when it is with the Present Perfect of the main verb
- He must have paid the bill
- She must have rejected the appeal
Note : Must expresses more strongly than should in cases of obligation, necessity and duty
- Need is a modal auxiliary verb. Some times it is used as a Principal Verb.
- It is generally used as the opposite of must
Eg: 1) You need not go with him
Opposite : You must go with him
2) You need not worry about it
Opposite : You must worry about it
- Need with not is the usual usage.
But Need without not comes in certain places :
Eg: a) You need accompany him only if you are asked to
- b) I don’t think we need repeat the same thing
- c) There need be no doubt about this matter.
- As a modal ; need remains unchanged whatever be the Person or Number of the subject.
Eg: You need not tell anything about it
He need not …………….
They need not ………………
She need not ……………….
- Need is sometimes followed by the semi – negative hardly
Eg: a) I need hardly say that I am very happy
- b) I need hardly tell you that you are always welcome.
- Need + only is another usage
Eg: a) He need only say what I want to do and it will be done.
- b) You need only send me a missed call and I shall do the rest.
- Modal need has no past tense form. But need not + perfect infinitive has a past meaning.
Eg: You need not have paid the last instalment
(ie. It is not necessary for you to pay the last instalment. But you paid)
- Need not is not changed in Reported Speech
The manager said, “You needn’t come the next day
The manager said that they needn’t come the next day.
But, there is a Past form :
The manager said that they didn’t have to come the next day.
Need as Principal Verb
- As a Principal Verb need means require
Eg: a) He needs my help (He does not need my help)
They need our help (They do not need my help)
He needed my help (He did not need my help)
They needed our help (They did not need our help)
N.B. : Here need is changed according to the person and number of the subject
Need = do + need
Needs = does + need
Needed = did + need
- Dare is used both as a Principal Verb and as a Modal
- Dare refers to be brave enough to
- As a modal, dare is commonly used with not or in interrogative sentence.
The negative daren’t may refer to present, past or future time.
Eg: a) He dare not do so
- b) He dare not oppose me
- c) How dare he do such a thing ?
- d) He dare not take such a step
- e) Dare you challenge him to a flight ?
As a Principal Verb
- Dare means defy, challenge or face boldly
- It changes with the Person and Number of its subject. It is followed by a to infinitive.
Dare = do + dare a
Dares = does + dare r
Dared = did + dare a
Eg: a) I don’t dare to climb that tall tree.
- b) He did not dare to go
- c) He has never dared to criticize me