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)

68
votes
10answers
23k views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
49 views

“If the robot can learn from a human, it can/could keep track of humans.”

I have the following sentence and I don't know whether "can" or "could" would be a better choice. If the robot can learn from a human, it could keep track of humans. If the robot can learn ...
1
vote
2answers
177 views

What tense uses a modal with “be” and a past tense verb

I am trying to determine the tense of a certain verb group. This group uses a modal/auxiliary with "be" and the past tense of the action verb. Examples: He may be finished. She must be ...
5
votes
5answers
955 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 He states that many of modal verbs we were taught are outdated and have been replaced.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 ...
32
votes
8answers
4k views

What is the infinitive of “can”?

Like the title says: I don't think "to can" is right :) I mean "can" as in to be able to. I'm aware of other meanings. I can't find the answer here. (There's What is an "infinitive"? which ...
6
votes
4answers
4k views

“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 ...
1
vote
1answer
73 views

“Having to” usage

I am confused in the usage of "having to" in a sentence, mentioned below. Which one is correct/appropriate? The trouble is having to backup … or The trouble is in having to backup ...
0
votes
0answers
32 views

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 ...
1
vote
2answers
2k views

“I have to” vs. “I must”

When would you use the following? I have to go the market. I must go to the market. I need to go to the market. If I replace 'have' with 'had' would you have any other way to say it? E.g. I had to ...
1
vote
3answers
77 views

“Must be” with a meaning like “must do”

I see that somebody must do something usually means that someone is obliged to do something. I also see that you must be kidding me means that it is highly likely that you are kidding me. But can ...
4
votes
3answers
8k 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

A special use of “should”?

I saw a sentence like this: Wilkinson is contesting the release, and threatened to sue should it be released. I could understand it but do you know what do they call this kind of use of "should" ...
1
vote
0answers
37 views

The verb “should” as a conjunction [duplicate]

Here is the phrase from Wikipedia: CFO Peter Klein has said that Microsoft has no alternate plan should its current mobile strategy fail. Another example: Should Microsoft’s tablet and phone ...
14
votes
6answers
2k views

Do serious grammarians endorse the “Can I”/“May I” distinction?

Just now, I wanted to ask a question that was something like, "Can I get a thorough list of all the parts of speech that a sentence can be broken down into?" But then a nagging voice appeared in my ...
0
votes
1answer
33 views

Have I transformed this reported speech correctly? [closed]

She asked the teacher what should she do. Should it read as - She asked the teacher, What has to be done? Please explain why the sentence might be incorrect.
21
votes
7answers
9k views

Is “must” ever grammatical as a past tense verb?

I have seen uses of must that appear to be in the simple past tense. Sometimes these seem grammatical, but sometimes not. Examples that help illustrate my confusion: He knew he must go to New York ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

Can “mustn't” be used for conclusions?

I heard this sentence in an American film a while ago as I was watching it on DVD (the part after but is verbatim): "I'm doing my best but I mustn't be doing it right." This is something I ...
2
votes
4answers
216 views

Why is the same modal auxiliary, 'may/might' used to ask permission and for uncertainty?

"May I go to the bathroom?" and "I asked if I might go to the bathroom." The modal auxiliary 'may/might' is used to ask permission. "He may not have understood your question." and "He might ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

“Should” versus “would”

The NOAD reports the following notes about should and would: The traditional rule is that should is used with first person pronouns (I and we), as in I said I should be late, and would is used ...
1
vote
1answer
149 views

“Can” or “could”, which is grammatically correct?

I'm a call center agent. When I ask to transfer the call to the authorized person, which form should I use: Can I speak to...? or Could I speak to...?
0
votes
1answer
110 views

What is the difference between “have not to” and “have to not”?

English isn't my native language, of course, to ask something like this. I personally thought that "have not to do something" and "have to not do something" were the same. But recently, I've seen a ...
0
votes
1answer
63 views

“have to” a phrasal verb

Why is "have to" not listed as a phrasal verb in the dictionary? "have" means to be in possession of something while "have to" means "obliged to". So "have to" seem to be non-compositional in terms of ...
2
votes
3answers
93 views

“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' ...
-1
votes
2answers
4k views

Is it “What should he have done?” or “had he done”?

What should he have done? What should he had done? Could you tell me which one is correct? (If any.)
7
votes
6answers
40k views

“Can/may/will you help me with this?”

Which word to use when we ask for help? Some conditions: We know that the person asked is able to do it. We don't know if the person asked is able to do it.
4
votes
6answers
6k views

Are “might” and “should” past tenses of “may” and “shall”, respectively?

According to the dictionary definitions (e.g. in Merriam-Webster) , "should" is the past of "shall" and "might" is the past of "may": But are these modal verbs really used as such? I know they are ...
-3
votes
2answers
109 views

“Can I” vs “May I” [duplicate]

You may have heard the argument "it's not can I go to the bathroom, it's may I." If this is true, then any question such as "can you get me a glass of water?" could have the same argument applied to ...
0
votes
1answer
86 views

The Use of the Modal Verb “Would” in a Certain Passage

Please consider the following passage from my English textbook: ...The commander of the troops called on his men to gather together on deck in proper drill order...Meanwhile, the lifeboats had ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

May you please explain this?

At a family dinner, my 18 year-old niece asked my sister, "May you please pass the salt?" My sister said that she was impressed with her daughter's politeness, but that that particular wording was ...
0
votes
2answers
89 views

Would it be incorrect to use “could” and “might” in the same sentence?

Would it be incorrect to use “could” and “might” in the same sentence? For example: It could be that Joseph might come this afternoon. Since could and might are both stating a possibility, it ...
8
votes
5answers
24k views

What is the difference between 'can', 'could', 'may' and 'might'?

I'm a native English speaker and I've been doing some research into English grammar for a programme I'm working on. However, on looking into modal verbs, I've only just come to appreciate how subtle ...
0
votes
1answer
833 views

What are usages similar to “Need I say more?”?

I recall hearing usages like Need I say more? Need I remind you that ...? instead of Do I need to say more? Do I need to remind you that ...? Indeed, they sound better, at least to ...
3
votes
4answers
549 views

Using “can” to express future ability

To refer to future ability we should strictly use will be able to in certain instances, while in other cases it is possible to use either can or will be able to. Why? How can one account for that ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

Would certainly have or certainly would have?

I have these confusions sometimes. Firstly, which among the following are grammatically correct to use in sentences- She would certainly have loved that. She would have certainly loved ...
1
vote
3answers
405 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), ...
16
votes
4answers
23k views

“Can hardly wait” versus “can't hardly wait”

This has been bothering me for a while and I'm finally at a forum where I feel like I might get an answer. I have heard people say "I can hardly wait for summer to get here" and I've also heard "I ...
0
votes
3answers
1k views

Why “should be doing” and not just “should do” in the following sentences?

What is the difference between "should X" and "should be Xing" in the following contexts? Or are they interchangeable? 10 Things you should do to improve the health of your hair. 10 Things ...
0
votes
1answer
115 views

Difference between “had + past” and “would have + past”? [closed]

Is there any difference between these two statements? When should each be used? I thought you had slept. I thought you would have slept.
0
votes
2answers
416 views

the use of would in the sentence

what is the difference between this two sentences " would you like to be a farmer ?" and "Do you like to be a farmer?" I know would is about specific time but there is no time in the sentence
2
votes
1answer
152 views

“Once…” in the past tense

I was standing on the spot where the murderer had been, thinking, "Did he hesitate? Once the trigger was pulled for the first time, there would've been no turning back." Can the following ...
2
votes
2answers
1k 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, ...
22
votes
5answers
5k views

Why should I use “ought to”?

Is "ought to" still used in modern English? If yes, in what contexts is it used, and is it used more in formal or informal cases?
3
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
21
votes
10answers
8k views

“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"?
0
votes
1answer
88 views

Finite verbs / Do vs Be

Which is correct? "You were always looking out for me. You always do." or "You were always looking out for me. You always are."
1
vote
3answers
5k 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.
1
vote
1answer
155 views

“Help” as a Non-Modal verb

Please read the following sentence: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is planning his retirement in the next nine months from the software giant he helped build. Would you consider "helped" a ...
9
votes
3answers
16k views

Why to use “May” before using “May God bless you”?

I heard it many times but I haven't really pondered on that. We can hear these following sentences in our daily lives: May God bless you. May God be pleased with you. May God accept your ...
105
votes
3answers
4k views

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 ...
5
votes
1answer
17k views

When to use “cannot” versus “can't”?

When is it best to write "can't" versus writing "cannot"? Are they interchangeable in every situation?