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.

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Using “could” when giving direction

Today someone asked me how to get to a place via bus. I only knew the train route so I tried to tell her that she could(?) use the train instead. This is an excerpt of the conversation: Do you know ...
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Is “Jack could get to work earlier” deontic or epistemic?

Please consider: Jack could get to work earlier. Is this use of could in the dynamic modality about Jack’s inherent ability, or is this the could of epistemic modality about the speaker’s ...
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Use of 'would' in place of the past simple

They left the house at 6 and would reach Edinburgh 12 hours later. (= .............. and they reached Edinburgh 12 hours later.) This is from a famous grammar book. I don't understand how ...
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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 ...
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Modal-verb ellipsis

I have two questions about modal-verb ellipsis. Can we omit the boldfaced modal verb in (a), without changing the meaning of the sentence? Which sounds more natural, (a) or (b)? (a) The delegation ...
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“Can” vs “Able to”: People/Animals vs. Inanimate Objects

I’m wondering if the English grammar “rule” given below, which I have heard from numerous non-native speakers, has any validity. “can” is used for people, animals, and inanimate objects. ...
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34 views

Mustn't be doing something

Do the following sentences have a deontic or epistemic meaning? He must be studying now. He mustn't be studying now.
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Is “Can I have a cup of coffee?” polite?

Is "Can I have a cup of coffee?" polite? What if I ask a store employee, "Can I have something?"
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Inverted conditional sentence using 'can' and 'will'

On this page in Wikipedia!, it states for first conditional sentences: The condition can also be expressed using the modal verb should. This form can be used to make an inverted condition ...
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Modality: Modals with Continuous Aspect

I am not completely sure about the use of 'must' 'can't' and 'should' in continuous aspect. It seems that different people have different opinions, especially regarding their use to refer to the ...
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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.
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Expressing Impossibility in the Future

What are the possible meanings of the following sentence: He can't be coming tomorrow. I think it has the following two possible meanings: It is impossible that he will be coming tomorrow. He is ...
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How to reply when someone says “How dare you do it” [closed]

I have no idea how to answer this: How dare you do it or How dare you do something that is unusual Is this a correct way of replying I dare it because I needed it Are there any ...
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36 views

Speculation about a Future Event [closed]

What is the difference between the following two sentences: 1. He will be coming tomorrow. 2. He must be coming tomorrow.
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39 views

Use of Modal Verbs 'Must' and 'Will' to Express Certainty

When I see examples of 'must' or 'will' showing certainty, I find that the main verb is either a stative verb or a present participle preceded by 'be'. How different are the two sentences in the ...
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4answers
80 views

Future Seen from the Past

What is difference between these two sentences: They left at 6 a.m. and would reach London after four hours. They left at 6 a.m. and reached London after four hours. The book, Oxford ...
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40 views

Asking a Question about Certainty [closed]

Suppose, I am a student and I am at school. I need to meet the principal. I go to his office, but he is not in. Now I ask myself a question about his presence. Which one of the following is the most ...
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Past modals and “like” [closed]

I need to rewrite a sentence by using the past modals. "Luke's given that watch away to a friend" (standard sentence) "Clearly he didn't like it then". (the sentence I have to rewrite with a modal ...
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40 views

Use of 'Could' in the Past Tense

What are the possible meanings and implications of the following sentences: He could come yesterday. He could not come yesterday. He could have come yesterday. He could not have come yesterday.
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Ability vs. General Ability in the Past

There is a rule in English that we don't use 'could' to express someone's ability to do something at a particular time or in a particular situation in the past. We use other expressions e.g. be able ...
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Can modal verbs in the perfect tense, i.e. may/might/could have done, refer to the future?

I think the pattern 'modal + have + past participle' refers to the present or the past. Can it refer to the future as well? Are all of the following sentences correct: He may have arrived yesterday. ...
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about 'need' and legal requirements

I saw the following question. It is puzzling not because of the grammar, but the meaning of 'need': In the past we threw a lot of our kitchen waste away, but today many itmes such as plastic bottles ...
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909 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 ...
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131 views

Can 'must' be used in a negative question?

Is it proper to write negative questions this way? You mustn't watch too much TV, must you?
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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, ...
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“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 ...
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129 views

Can one use “may” and “might” in the same sentence?

Is it possible to use may and might in the same sentence to describe a potential outcome? For example: While Sara may recognise the car, Paul might not.
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“He might could come Friday” - Can anyone use two modals for the same verb (and get away with it)? [duplicate]

I've heard someone use two modals for the same verb more than once, in an American film. It looked like an old movie, perhaps from the 70s. The other sentence was: "I might could help you." I wonder ...
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How can I ask for a user's contact information? [closed]

We have an app in which users will win prizes, and we will be contacting them by email to send them their prizes. In the dialog requesting the user's email address, I've written this text: Please ...
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How many tenses are there in English?

Do we have 16 tenses in English? With future present past future in the past in these forms simple continuous perfect perfect continuous Can we manipulate these together to create English ...
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3answers
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Where were “should”, “shall”, and “must” in the 18th Century?

According to the following Google Ngram, in the U.K. the modals should, shall, and must were virtually missing from English writing during the 18th Century (I've added will for a comparison modal ...
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5answers
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“need to do” vs “need do”

Consider: I need to do this. I need do this. My English grammar knowledge tells me that "need" doesn't have the same status as the modal verbs "may", "can", "should" and what not. Hence the second ...
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50 views

Is there a difference between the two sentences? [duplicate]

-The train could leave Boston. -The train would leave Boston. Is there a difference? Are they interchangeable?
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89 views

Use of 'must have' for obligation in the future

I have noticed there is a way of using 'must have' to denote finished obligation in the future - somewhat akin to the 'future perfect tense'. An example of what I mean: " I must have finished ...
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“Boys will be boys!” Is 'will be' a future simple of 'be' or a present simple of modal auxiliary 'will'?

In the proverb: Boys will be boys! is 'will be' one verb or two? the future simple of 'be' (one verb)? or the present simple of modal auxiliary 'will' + the bare present infinitive of 'be' ...
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Contracting “I should have” to “I'd've”

I know that for "I would have" the contraction "I’d have" or "I’d’ve" is a lot more frequently used in everyday conversation. But is the same true for "I should have"? Is "I’d've" also prefered?
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Passive of modal verb dare

What would be the passive of: You dare not talk to her. Also, is it right to say "you dare not talk to her" at all?
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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.
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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 ...
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3answers
656 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), ...
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Is “might could” a correct construct?

I have a friend from the southern U.S. who uses the phrase “might could” quite often. He’ll say, for example: I might could do that this weekend. When I first heard him say this, it made me do ...
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“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 ...
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Can a hypothetical “could” main clause stand on its own without an expressed conditional?

I have been reading Meaning and the English Verb (Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004). I like its systematic treatment on tense, aspect, mood, and modality. I think it's a must-have for any advanced ESL ...
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could and might to talk about future possibility

I have problem with using could in the future possibilities for example: They have the technology, but unless the government makes stricter laws, car companies ____ do it. With which one should I ...
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What is the future tense of “would have been”?

The following sentence is grammatically correct: Today would have been Freddie Mercury's 68th birthday. If Freddie Mercury were still alive, this sentence would be correct too: September 5, ...
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1answer
151 views

Can a remote conditional have “might” in the protasis?

In the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston and Pullum, the authors write: A remote conditional must have a modal auxiliary as the apodosis verb (usually would, should, could, ...
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When to Use “Could, Would , Will and Can”? [duplicate]

When to Use "Could, Would , Will and Can"? Could you please send me that email? Would you please send me that email? Will you please send me that email? Can you please send me that email? Please ...
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343 views

“Could not have been” vs. “must not have been”

What's the difference between "could not have been" and "must not have been"? For example, That could not have been an easy task. That must not have been an easy task. I've seen both ...
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Confusion about modal and auxiliary verb sentence structure [duplicate]

"Little did he realize that ..." What is the structure of this sentence with the past tense of the auxiliary verb 'do' in the beginning ? 2) "Otherwise, could we..." or "Otherwise, we could..." ?
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“May” & “Might”: What's the right context?

I may not be coming in tomorrow... I might not be coming in tomorrow... When could I use "may" & "might"?