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)

22
votes
4answers
12k views

Why do we say “was supposed to” for “should have”?

I was supposed to do my homework, but I went out clubbing instead. On a literal interpretation, supposed to suggests that other people (or indeed, myself) might have supposed (thought, imagined, ...
74
votes
10answers
29k 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 ...
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" ...
23
votes
11answers
9k 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"?
7
votes
6answers
48k 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
3answers
10k 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
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.
17
votes
3answers
5k 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
12k 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
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 ...
83
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 ...
2
votes
4answers
9k views

Difference between “can” and “may” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Can/May/Will you help me with this? Which is correct if I want to request for a pen? Can I have your pen please? May I have your pen please?
21
votes
7answers
11k 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 ...
10
votes
5answers
34k 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 ...
19
votes
5answers
14k 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
654 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 ...
1
vote
3answers
8k 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.
2
votes
2answers
17k 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
3answers
2k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
78 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 ...
18
votes
5answers
16k views

“How dare you” vs “How do you dare”

I know that dare is a semi-modal verb. I just don't know when to use it like a modal auxiliary verb and when to use it like a normal verb. Given the following examples: How dare you ... How do ...
17
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
3k 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
2answers
1k views

Usage of “will” and “would”

Which one is correct? What would I do without you. What will I do without you. You would always be my favorite travel buddy. You will always be my favorite travel buddy.
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 ...
1
vote
2answers
35k views

How to use would or could in English? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When should we use “can”, “could”, “will”, “would”? I am not a native English speaker and this would/could thing always ...
106
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 ...
2
votes
2answers
25k views

What is the difference between “have to”, “must”, and “should”? [duplicate]

Is there any difference between have to”, “must”, and “should”? If there is some difference between them, when do I have to use (nor not use) each of the constructions below? have to do something ...
5
votes
6answers
7k 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 ...
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 ...
7
votes
1answer
26k 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?
5
votes
2answers
9k 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 ...
16
votes
4answers
28k 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
22k 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

How to add emphasis to a modal verb

To add emphasis to a normal verb, we use the emphatic do: He does run fast. Do come in. Do brush your teeth. Obviously, with modal verbs this would be a grave mistake: (*) He ...
6
votes
4answers
10k views

Is either “can” or “could” more polite? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When do I use “can” or “could”? I wonder which of the following is more polite: Can you please change my email address? Could you please change my email ...
4
votes
2answers
474 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 ...
3
votes
4answers
185 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
744 views

Simple Present for Future Actions

Why can we use the following statement when we mean future events? What time do you get there? Or should we rather say: What time will you get there? Is there a difference?
10
votes
2answers
350 views

Is “can not” unambiguous?

I always try to remember to use "cannot" when applicable as in "I cannot take an umbrella" (because I do not have one). I also thought that the problem with "I can not take an umbrella" was that it ...
5
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
4
votes
5answers
2k 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 ...
2
votes
4answers
1k views

Explain the verb tense in “I wish I never woke up this morning”

This is from a song by Police, Darkness: "I can dream up schemes when I'm sitting in my seat I don't see any flaws 'til I get to my feet I wish I never woke up this morning Life was easy ...
0
votes
1answer
6k views

Must had vs must have [closed]

If someone says that they had been to Florida on a recent trip, which one of the following would be a correct respone: That must had been fun. That must have been fun. Or is there a ...
-6
votes
1answer
612 views

“To have to” vs. “should” [closed]

I wonder which one to choose here: My father should drive carefully when it’s raining. My father has to drive carefully when it’s raining.
8
votes
2answers
10k views

Is “should” ever used as past tense of “shall”?

Looking at the dictionary, I read that should has origin as past tense of shall. In the modern English, is should ever used as past tense of shall? ORIGIN Old English sceolde: past of shall.
8
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
3
votes
4answers
539 views

Past conditional statements

What is the difference between the following two statements? If I went home for dinner, I took a glass of soft drink. If I went home for dinner, I would take a glass of soft drink. Are both ...
17
votes
4answers
626 views

Should Kyle be corrected, and if he doesn't, why?

In a recent blog entry, Jeff Atwood quotes his sysadmin Kyle: "Should the developers have access to the production environment, and if they do, to what extent?" My understanding is that this ...
10
votes
3answers
3k views

How do I ask a question politely?

When I was growing up, if I ever said something similar to "Can I go to the store with Joe?", my mom would correct me with "May I go to the store with Joe?". Is "May I?" the typical way to ask a ...