Modal verbs (such as can, could, shall, should, will, would, may, might, and must) combine with verbs in the bare infinitive to express information about the verb such as possibility or necessity.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

6
votes
2answers
1k views

Use of “should have” in conditional sentences

In Return of the Soldier (1918) I came across what appears to be a conditional sentence: I never should have got this telegram if me and my husband hadn't been down there last September and told ...
6
votes
3answers
258 views

Geographical distribution of “shall”

In all of the places that I've ever lived (various parts of the western US), the modal verbs shall and will are almost perfectly synonymous, and will is preferred by an enormous margin. Shall is used ...
6
votes
3answers
25k views

When should we use “can”, “could”, “will”, “would”? [duplicate]

Most of the people says I wish I could, I wish you would. Can't we use I wish I can, I wish you will? I'd like to know what the main difference between the usage of can/will and could/would is.
6
votes
1answer
25k views

'There seem' or 'there seems' + usage of the word 'seem'

First, I have a question "How words 'seem' and 'there' are used together?" Which is correct: There seem ... or There seems ... Then, I'm am interested in general constructions with the word ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

Is the structure “can have verb-ed” possible?

I have seen and heard sentences like these: He could have gone too far. John can't have eaten all the cake. But I don't seem to encounter this structure: She can have done the work. I ...
6
votes
2answers
17k views

“Can” vs. “could” in asking a question [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When do I use “can” or “could”? I am a little bit confused about asking a question: Can you please tell me my next work? or Could you please tell me my next ...
6
votes
1answer
5k views

Rule about order in modal + adverb + to be

I am currently reading a book, where I found the following sentences: The X can be also applied to Y Later in the book, I find The X may alternatively be spread over two Y My question is ...
6
votes
1answer
717 views

Why are 'preterite presents' called so?

While reading about 'defective verbs' on Wikipedia, I came across this term – preterite present verbs. The most commonly recognized defective verbs in English are auxiliary verbs — the class of ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

“If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be…” What does this mean?

I'm translating a book, which involves logic and quoted the sentence from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass: "If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ...
5
votes
5answers
1k views

What modal verbs do natives use nowadays?

We are being taught English by a native speaker from Alaska. He states that many of modal verbs we were taught are outdated and have been replaced. E.g.: We must ➙ We have to May I ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Is it possible to use had to + past participle?

I always think that the proper use of this construction is, for example: 'After the death of her grandfather, she had to take over his duties on the farm'. This is a sentence from my paper, which ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Why would he do this to me?

Do the following two statements convey the same meaning? Why would he do this to me? Why did he do this to me? To me, both of them seem to imply something done to me in the past.
5
votes
5answers
2k views

Can “be” be used with the modal verb “do”?

These two sentences are both valid I write this sentence. I do write this sentence. Are these both valid? I am writing this sentence. I do be writing this sentence.
5
votes
5answers
4k views

What is the meaning of “ought not”?

Consider this example: A few strong branches over water reach for what they ought not reach. Which of the meanings comes closest to “ought not” in this sentence? Is it “doesn't have to”, “should ...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

“cannot” vs. “must not”

It's pretty common, especially in video games' mission objectives, to state: A person X must not die. Would this be rapidly different if constructed like this? A person X cannot die.
5
votes
2answers
332 views

Simple explanation of the many functional uses of 'should'?

[User John Lawler]: So how many named special cases of each modal verb are there, in toto? There's 1. subjunctive should, and 2. mandative should, and 3. putative should, at least; and I ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Grammar of 'dare' in this example

What is the grammar of the verb 'dare' in the following example? The pizza was nice but, dare I say it, the salad was awful.  Is it some type of imperative?
5
votes
6answers
28k views

Which one to state — “We would like to thank You” or “We thank You”

I am writing an official statement for plaques, in appreciation of an employee's contribution to the company. I am not sure which one to use: We would like to thank you for your unstinting ...
5
votes
3answers
21k views

Are “should” and “if” interchangeable at the beginning of a sentence? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: A special use of “should”? If "should" comes at the beginning of a sentence, and the sentence is not a question, then can it be replaced with "if?" Is there any ...
5
votes
3answers
15k views

Would have done

Please read the following passage. I will post my question at the end of it. Here is the passage: At home I locked myself in. Jason, my lawyer and lyn sent texts simultaneously at the point the ...
5
votes
6answers
4k views

Are modal verbs finite or non-finite?

According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, finite ... 2 Grammar (of a verb form) having a specific tense, number, and person. non-finite ... Grammar (of a verb form) not limited by tense, ...
5
votes
1answer
200 views

Is it appropriate to omit “will not be”?

Often, someone will say: I'm not living in a senior's home! When the intended meaning is: I will not be living in a senior's home! Is this acceptable?
5
votes
2answers
3k views

Past tense of “must” when meaning logical probability

I'm wondering how to say this sentence in the past tense: He must be very clever I have seen that the past tense of "must" is "have to" but it doesn't sound good to me to say something like "he ...
5
votes
1answer
408 views

How has the usage of 'should' varied over time? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “Should” versus “would” In Spring 1936, Evelyn Waugh sent a marriage proposal to Laura Herbert, in which he wrote: [...] On the other ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Would or Could, in a list of questions, is the first verb always the correct choice?

Here is an example of what I am wondering about: I wonder why or how someone could kill a person. In this sentence we have two questions, why and how. They both require different supporting ...
5
votes
4answers
1k views

Usage of “might” and “would” to indicate doubt

Do the sentences She might be only 28, but Jodie Whittaker.... and My parents would have walked along the Barrow wrongly suggest doubt, or are they normal usage? Are there names for ...
4
votes
9answers
1k views

“It was not to be closed” or “It should not have been closed”

I would like to use the phrase "this question should not be closed" to refer to a question that someone closed—but the expression seems defective because it doesn't get at the fact that the closing ...
4
votes
6answers
49k views

“won't” vs. “wouldn't”

Are these two words interchangeable? How do you know when to use one or the other? For some sentences it is easy to know which one to use, but not for others. The type of sentences that are difficult ...
4
votes
7answers
2k views

Confusing structures with modal verbs

I have skimmed through the part on modals of a classic grammar book (Murphy's "Grammar in Use") and picked up all the structures that look strange to me. Could you, please, explain how often they are ...
4
votes
2answers
638 views

Conditionals in the future

My colleague and I have a hot discussion about which is correct. My version is: If you don't fix the bug I will send you a patch. and his one is: I would send you a patch if you don't fix ...
4
votes
3answers
4k views

When is “will” used in an “if” clause?

Given the following sentences that use will in the if clause (which is seldom with if-clauses and therefore, I'm not sure they all are even grammatical or not). If you will/would kindly lend me ...
4
votes
5answers
3k views

How do I report speech containing “must not”?

What's the form for reporting speech that contains must not? I mean: I can't come to the meeting on Monday => She told me she couldn't come to the meeting on Monday. You must talk to me => ...
4
votes
4answers
3k views

“Would” with a present meaning—is this correct?

A great example I can think of: "Please, leave! I would be alone!" With would meaning something like, "I want to be alone." Is this correct, or not? EDIT: To further clarify, I am not aiming ...
4
votes
5answers
4k views

Is there another way to say “needn't have done”?

I'm learning modal verbs now and get in trouble with "need" one. In my textbook it is said that: don't need to == needn't -- present simple didn't need to -- past simple needn't have done -- ...
4
votes
5answers
13k views

Wouldn't have been alone

Listening to the BBC one of the journalists made the following utterance when discussing a historic figure, "The Khan". A: For merchants the crucial issue was protection when traveling. B: I ...
4
votes
3answers
21k views

“It could/might/may be funny” — what is the correct usage?

What is the difference in meaning in these three sentences? it might be funny it could be funny it may be funny The answer was partially touched on in this post.
4
votes
3answers
972 views

Is it Standard American English to ever contract “did” as “-'d”?

Assuming that it is Standard American English to contract would as -'d, is it standard to contract did as -'d? For example: I would really like to have a glass of single malt scotch right now. ...
4
votes
1answer
134 views

“must”: obligation x certainty. Which meaning developed first in the English language?

ORIGIN OF MUST - Middle English moste, from Old English mōste, past indicative & subjunctive of mōtan to be allowed to, have to; akin to Old High German muozan to be allowed to, have to First ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Modal words and enumeration

(I'm not sure if the title is absolutely correct, so feel free to fix it) Is it siutable to enumerate verbs without modal verb? Example: File already should be created and contain some data in ...
4
votes
3answers
422 views

Are modal verbs and auxiliary verbs actually verbs?

A friend recently told me that "can" is a rare verb without an infinitive. I have since looked it up and discovered it is an auxiliary verb. In my mind it modifies a "proper" verb in much the same way ...
4
votes
1answer
349 views

“Should” in the past?

What is the way to say that something "should be done" in the past? I know there is a "should have" structure, but it is used for situations, when something was to be done in the past, but it wasn't. ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

could versus be able

Let me start by saying what is written in grammar books on this issue and after that I will put my question. (Take heed that this usage of "could" ONLY refers to the past and ONLY to affirmative ...
4
votes
2answers
10k views

Is the usage “can able to” wrong? I believe it's wrong. But where can I find some reference on the same?

I hear a lot of people use 'can able to' in their daily talk. I believe it's entirely wrong. Both 'can' and 'able to' hold the same meaning. Where do I get more information on the same and also the ...
4
votes
1answer
153 views

Is It Correct to Say ‘Need I Not’?

Need is utilised as a normal and also a modal verb (similar to ‘can’, ‘shall’...). e.g. I don’t need; I need not. Is it correct to say need I not or needn’t I for the interrogative form?
4
votes
2answers
153 views

Why is the past tense of “may”, “might”?

Why is the past tense of may, might? When you see other past forms of auxiliary verbs, they usually have -ould, like should, could, and would. Unlike other forms, the past tense of may is might not ...
3
votes
3answers
4k views

Future Tense of Modal Verbs

All normal verbs can be conjugated in the future tense. e.g. I know, I will know. I do, I will do. But I have noticed that we cannot conjugate the modal verb can in the future tense. can, I ...
3
votes
2answers
36k views

Difference between “does have” and “has” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “did shoot” vs “shot” 'Did see' and 'Saw' “I understand you” vs “I do understand you” What is the difference in meaning between “I play” and “I ...
3
votes
4answers
233 views

“Paul would later transfer to McKinley High and join Kevin and Winnie.”

I read the following: After graduating from Junior High, Kevin and Winnie both go to McKinley High and Paul attends a prep school. Paul would later transfer to McKinley High and join Kevin and ...
3
votes
2answers
10k views

Usage of “must have” in past tenses

So, I've checked Is "must" ever grammatical as a past tense verb? and Past tense of "must" when meaning logical probability and I'm also almost confident that I cannot say "must ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Are there other verbs that work like “dare” and “need”? [duplicate]

The verbs dare and need do not require auxiliaries when used in the interrogative; for example, “need I?” is as acceptable as “do I need?” Excluding the auxiliaries themselves (like be, do, have), ...