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)

75
votes
11answers
32k 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 ...
109
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 ...
0
votes
1answer
45 views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
249 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 ...
8
votes
5answers
6k 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
48 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?
0
votes
1answer
98 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?
1
vote
1answer
70 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.
1
vote
1answer
51 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 ...
2
votes
3answers
143 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' ...
0
votes
0answers
46 views

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?
2
votes
2answers
108 views

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 ...
2
votes
3answers
85 views

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?
4
votes
5answers
1k 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.
4
votes
2answers
6k 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 ...
1
vote
3answers
609 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), ...
22
votes
5answers
16k views

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 ...
4
votes
9answers
497 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
443 views

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 ...
1
vote
1answer
219 views

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 ...
1
vote
3answers
118 views

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, ...
1
vote
1answer
141 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, ...
1
vote
0answers
10 views

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 ...
0
votes
2answers
173 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 ...
0
votes
0answers
9 views

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..." ?
23
votes
11answers
10k 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"?
10
votes
5answers
39k 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
95 views

Is it correct to say “I was sure after a year I would get over it”?

My pet dog died last summer, she was the only one I had, but I was sure after a year I would get over it. Or should I say I had get over it there instead?
0
votes
1answer
120 views

Grammar: French conditionnel in English?

Could anybody help me here, please? I’d like to know the grammatical form of the verb “can" in the following examples: 18y old Tim is asked by a relative what he’s going to do with his life. ...
1
vote
3answers
138 views

What’s the difference between “if I were” and “if I would be”? [closed]

Can someone tell me the difference between these two phrases: if I were rich if I would be rich I am not a native English speaker, so it’s hard for me to see any difference in meaning between ...
2
votes
2answers
79 views

Is “shall” an appropriate word for a scientific thesis? [closed]

May I use the word shall in my scientific thesis? As in The relevant ones shall be introduced in the following. Or is shall considered slang or outdated?
13
votes
3answers
694 views

What kind of construct is 'would that that were all'?

There is a place in Bram Stoker’s Dracula where I can’t quite parse the grammar: 8 May. — I began to fear as I wrote in this book that I was getting too diffuse. But now I am glad that I went ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Using “will” after “if”

I've been told that native-speakers don't ever use "will" after "if", and that saying it this way is a not-native style. So from the film (Harry Potter, pt5) I noticed a line that confused me. Look ...
0
votes
3answers
103 views

Can “may” be an infinitive

I was reading this article http://www.organics.org/8-beers-that-you-should-stop-drinking-immediately/ when I saw Propylene Glycol is controversial, and is said to may be potentially harmful to ...
6
votes
2answers
104 views

Nuances in variants of “I should/would/∅ think so”

What is the difference between saying: I should think so. I would think so. I think so. And also what does using should in this way mean? It is strange you should say you have seen her, seeing ...
3
votes
3answers
2k 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, ...
0
votes
1answer
119 views

Future Perfect in the Past

Can I use should have done for the future just like will have done? For example: It should have been finished by next Monday. Which basically means It should be finished by next Monday but with ...
88
votes
4answers
7k views

Why is “cannot” spelled as one word?

Why is “cannot” spelled as one word whereas other similar constructions such as “do not,” “will not,” “shall not,” “may not” and “must not” are spelled as two words (unless they are contracted as ...
0
votes
3answers
2k views

“would I need” or “will I need” What is the correct sentence?

I don't know which sentence is correct for my formal letter? As a foreigner will I need any work permit or personal accident insurance? As a foreigner would I need any work permit or personal ...
7
votes
1answer
249 views

Are “was/were able to” and “could” interchangeable?

In a grammar book, the claim was made that in the following sentences one cannot substitute "was/were able to" with "could." The fire spread through the building very quickly, but everyone was ...
1
vote
3answers
122 views

What is the usage of “need to want”?

"Indeed, whoever buys this needs to want a tablet and laptop in more or less equal measure." "Needs to want"? Isn't it a kind of unnecessary way around saying: "I think that people buy this if they ...
6
votes
3answers
14k views

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

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.
2
votes
4answers
445 views

Why “can” not “could” in “She was one of those people who can. . . .”?

The following sentence is from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, occurring in chapter 5 of part 2: She was one of those people who can go to sleep at any hour and in any position. Why is ...
-3
votes
1answer
126 views

could have done vs could do [duplicate]

I always suspected that the idiot in the tux could not have done it on his own. In this sentence, if we said could not do instead of could not have done what would be the difference in meanings ...
1
vote
2answers
98 views

Is “Can you carry this book?” acceptable? [closed]

Is it grammatically correct to say: Can you carry this book? I said this to a friend and this person commented that I need to learn grammar. To me the statement seems grammatically correct and ...
0
votes
2answers
77 views

The modal verb would

Longman Advanced Learners' grammar says: (p 27/7) Dad would always help us out financially when we were at university, however difficult it was for him. Is it correct to use 'would' in this ...
-1
votes
1answer
92 views

Why is “that would be me” more certain than “that is me”?

I have been reading these two posts on would: Why "that would be me"? (part 1) & Why "that would be me"? (part 2) If you want a domestic SUV, then the best choice would be the Ford Escape ...
17
votes
3answers
2k views

When did periphrastic tenses stop being tenses?

English sometimes has several different ways of expressing the same thing. For example, it can form a possessive either by using an old case inflection: The dog’s tail was always wagging. Or it ...
1
vote
1answer
1k 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
68 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 ...