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 you dare ...

Is it only up to the speaker as to which one to use? Or does it depend on the circumstances?


5 Answers 5


If you are issuing this statement as a warning or confrontation then the only acceptable formulation is

How dare you

For example: "How dare you go behind my back and talk to my boss without telling me."

How do you dare is asking a question- essentially How is it possible that you dare to ...

For example: "How do you dare do that? Aren't you afraid you'll burn your hand?"


Need and dare are the English semi-modal verbs, which means that need and dare can behave like a modal (no inflections, negative contractions needn't, dassn't, subject-auxiliary inversion, to-less infinitives) only in negative contexts.

The modalactivity of need and dare is a Negative Polarity Item, and operates only within the scope of a Negative Polarity Trigger. Since questions are NPI triggers, the modalactive form "How dare you ... ?" -- with subject-auxiliary inversion, no inflection (How dare she?, not *How dares she?), and infinitives without to (How dare you come here? not *How dare you to come here?) -- is licensed by its question form.

Isn't English syntax fun?

I explained about this peculiarity of dare in another post here, a while back.

  • 8
    I don't understand the upvotes on this answer. Lots of grammar-speak (oooh! +1 for "modalactive"!) but I fail to see how it, in any way, answers the OP's question. Maybe I'm missing something.
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 19:04
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    Ask grammatical question, but no answer in grammar-speak (oooh +1). The OP asked how to tell when to use dare as a modal, and acknowledged knowing they were "semi-modals"; I provided a list of situations where semi-modality occurs, with examples. Just the facts, ma'am. I didn't treat the fact that there are fixed phrases and constructions involved, and that "How do you dare?" sounds like something weird a madman might mutter when shaking hands with a stranger. As for the upvotes, I don't understand either; luckily, I don't have to. Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 19:29
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    I see this - "Is it only up to the speaker as to which one to use? Or does it depend on the circumstances?" - as the heart of the OP's question; the answer, it seems to me, is "yes, it depends on circumstances, and here they are." You've definitely answered some questions about the word dare, but I'm not sure any of them was what he was asking. He may have muddied the waters a bit by tossing in "semi-modal".
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 20:09
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    Given OP introduced terminology such as semi-modal right at the start, it's not inappropriate to provide quite a detailed technical answer. But I must say in this case I'm more attracted to @Amir's answer because I think "How dare you!" is a "fossilized expression" - we don't normally create new utterances using this archaic inversion, so the basic answer for OP is simply "Note and reproduce the form in established 'set phrases', but don't extend the principle to constructions you've not heard before" Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 21:20
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    Sure, that's true of any NPI; they're either really recent and jazzy or ancient and quirky. Just learn to recognize the negative contexts and you'll have some idea what weird things can happen. Polarity phenomena are at the root of the problems that produce a vast number of the questions here. Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 21:29

"How dare you" is just a fossilized expression, and as Skippy says, it's basically lost its interrogativity. It isn't so much a question as it is an exclamation... It's an archaism (archaicism?) like "so be it." it's an example of the older interrogation and negation which didn't use auxiliary verbs.

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    This is the correct answer, and it's really pretty simple. Most of the other answers here completely miss the point IMO.
    – McGarnagle
    Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 23:49

"How dare you" is commonly-used, particularly in exclamations – as in: How dare you wake him up in the middle of his nap!

"How do you dare" seems unnatural to me. I think I'd be more inclined to say something along the lines of: Would you dare wake him up in the middle of his nap?


Daring can mean doing something that is inherently dangerous (because of fire, heights, enemies, wild beasts, zombies, etc.), but it can also mean doing something that is known to be forbidden or disapproved (defying your boss, cheating on your wife, etc.)

How dare you/he/she? is only used in a disapproving way:
- How dare you come here and accuse me?
- How dare she speak to me like that?

How do you dare? could be used conversationally to ask how someone has the courage to do something; however, it would be much more usual to ask in the past tense:
- How did you dare to walk out on that ledge?

In general, asking "how do you dare?" seems like bad form conversationally:
- on one hand, the person being asked may feel that s/he is bragging (I dare because I am a hero. Why do you ask?)
- on the other hand, asking a firefighter How do you dare to run into burning buildings day after day? carries with it the implicit question Are you f$%^&!@g crazy?

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    The "distinction" between supposed different meanings of the word "dare" seems spurious to me, and in any case it's irrelevant to the specific issue of word order and/or inclusion of the word "do", which is what OP is asking about. Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 21:23
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    MT_Head, How would you say "How dare you" in the Past? It should be a "modal" dare. If we say "How did you dare" then it gets another meaning, right? Shall we stick to "How dared you do" or what?
    – user1425
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 10:40

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