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Questions tagged [modal-verbs]

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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"Could" at the beggining of a non-question sentence

The sentence is: "Could we have found a buyer who would continue operations, I would have certainly preferred to sell the business rather than liquidate it." I can guess the meaning of "...
Tamir's user avatar
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1 answer
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"must" vs "be required to"

I am a non-native speaker. I understand that both sentences below have the same meaning. However, I feel that the use of the word "must" isn't suitable for a document such as a questionnaire ...
Happy Hippopotamus's user avatar
3 votes
3 answers
520 views

The usage of the modal verb "must be"

Is this sentence grammatically correct? These two people must be freelancers working hard on their computers. This sentence is a translation from Russian Эти два человека, должно быть фрилансеры, ...
Серж's user avatar
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-3 votes
2 answers
86 views

It can't possibly be true, but somehow maybe

How is this sentence to be construed: 'It can't possibly be true, but somehow maybe.' ? Can you rephrase it? Source: https://youtu.be/X19aZ-MgibA?t=663 Would I Lie to You S17 E8. Non-UK viewers. 16 ...
sanya6's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
229 views

Can 'would' be used for something probably true without any conditional clause implicit or explicit?

I was reading Mari-Lou A's answer would have done on a use of would have without involving any conditional clause, implied or otherwise. My question is with would. Can would be used for showing ...
RADS's user avatar
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1 answer
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will + perfect construction

In section "10.3.4 Will / would" of "Oxford modern English grammar", the author gives the following example: 31 You will have gathered from the above that I, for one, do not ...
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This question popped up on my mind: "why do we use bare infinitives after modal verbs?" [duplicate]

So, I know that after modal verbs, the bare infinitive or base form of a verb is used according to Oxford ("Modal verbs are followed by the infinitive of another verb without to. The exceptions ...
Sunless's user avatar
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1 answer
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Usage of "may" instead of "might" in the past context

I came across the following sentence while reading "A Clash of Kings" book by George R. R. Martin: Whitetree was the fourth village they had passed, and it had been the same in all of them. ...
Denis's user avatar
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"ought" with or without "to"? [duplicate]

We usually say "ought to" not "ought". (Although more often we say "should"). I wonder when I can say "ought" without "to". Some examples: 1: Ought I ...
Kyamond's user avatar
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2 votes
3 answers
721 views

Max couldn’t go out after dark. <permission at a past time?>

A linguistics paper titled "Tense and Modals" by Tim Stowell shows these examples and explains them as follows: (9) a. Carl can’t move his arm. (ability at the utterance time) b. Carl ...
JK2's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
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How does "dare" change in indirect speech?

In indirect speech some modal verbs usually change. can -> could He said "I can ride a bike" = He said that he could ride a bike may -> might/could He asked "May I use the ...
Kyamond's user avatar
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16 votes
12 answers
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The usage of "can not" vs. "cannot" in mathematics

I saw the following passage in Professor West's homepage, and I hadn't noticed this point before. See https://dwest.web.illinois.edu/grammar.html#cannot "Can not" and "may be". ...
licheng's user avatar
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3 answers
127 views

"No, it can't be...." vs " No, it may not be..."

I know "No, it can't be" can mean "It's impossible that it is", but I don't think "No, it may not be" can also mean "It's impossible that it is". I know that &...
Kim Hui-jeong's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
42 views

Should I use 'can' or 'will be able to'? "If he fixes your car tonight, you [?] drive it to school tomorrow." [closed]

Should I change "will be able to" to "can" in the bolded sentence from the exchange below? A: My car broke down and I have to drive to school to pick up my daughter tomorrow. I ...
Skywarrior's user avatar
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1 answer
55 views

What is this conditional-type sentence used to express reluctance or uncertainty?

The difference between "I can fix the computer" and "I could fix the computer" (present tense) is that the latter expresses more reluctance or doubt. What is this type of sentence ...
Quitting Due To Antisemitism's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
73 views

When the verb dare is an auxiliary, can it take the preterite form dared?

I need to distinguish the auxiliary dare and the lexical dare. I know that as semi-modals need and dare act similarly. As a modal the verb need can only have present tense forms without the 3rd person ...
noorav's user avatar
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Could "It needn't have been Jill that wrote the note" be interpreted other than deontic?

I know that the modality can be ambiguous and many clauses can be interpreted in many ways. I find that the clause "It needn't have been Jill that wrote the note" can be interpreted as ...
noorav's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
115 views

Is "Could you help me move these boxes?" interpreted as deontic or dynamic when it comes to the modality families?

I have a problem with the following clause: Could you help me move these boxes? I would like to know for my upcoming English test that if this clause is interpreted as epistemic, deontic or dynamic. ...
noorav's user avatar
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-1 votes
1 answer
91 views

How modal verbs change while converting active voice to passive voice? [closed]

We can buy electrical appliances from Amazon. Electrical appliances can be bought from Amazon. Electrical appliances could be bought from Amazon. Which among the two is the correct passive voice of ...
Sasikuttan's user avatar
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0 answers
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I may go to the party - permission or possibility? Or both? [duplicate]

Hope you can help me to answer this tricky question. I´m posting here as I got the impression that it needs a linguist or at least a native to answer it. When you say: I may go to the party. Does this ...
Nina Lezioni's user avatar
-1 votes
1 answer
52 views

Should "seem" be used instead of "seems" in this sentence: "Technology may have made the world seems smaller." [closed]

An editing textbook suggested that "seem" should be used instead of "seems" in this sentence: Technology may have made the world seems smaller. The shorter sentence "the ...
Chris Low's user avatar
1 vote
3 answers
180 views

The possibility of can and may

I ask about the possibility of can. I would like to ask further to the past Stack Exchange answer. Question What is the difference between 'can', 'could', 'may' and 'might&#...
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What are the roles of ‘can’, ‘do’, and ‘is’ in ‘All a man can do is smile back’?

What roles (Subject, Head etc) do the words can, do and is each play in this sentence in terms of its syntactic grammar, either individually or as a group? Death smiles at us all, but all a man can ...
ali hashemi's user avatar
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110 views

Can "must have + past participle" ever express obligation (deontic modality)?

Can a sentence using a must have + past participle construction ever express deontic modality? These are all epistemic: He must have showered. Someone must have eaten the apple. The laundry must have ...
minseong's user avatar
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1 answer
351 views

What’s the difference between saying “I’m willing ɴᴏᴛ to do it” and “I’m ɴᴏᴛ willing to do it”? [duplicate]

I’ve been asked to paraphrase this sentence without changing the meaning: I won’t do it. I’m confused as to which of these possible rewrites I should choose: I’m willing not to do it. I'm not ...
Tyy's user avatar
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3 votes
3 answers
427 views

How did "ought" lose its original usage as the past tense of "owe"?

Ought is originally the past tense of owe (v.). It appears that this usage is retained in Scottish and in some dialects of English. The current use of ought in standard English is a modal auxiliary (...
ermanen's user avatar
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1 vote
3 answers
195 views

Is "can be able to" idiomatic among native speakers at all? If not, what's its origin?

I've heard the expression can be able to consistently from a couple of folks from India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Here are a couple of paraphrased examples: By signing up to our service,...
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2 votes
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What is the reason for quasi-modals existing and why do they imply different meaning than the modals themselves?

What I mean is - Why do we have collocations such as "be supposed to", "have to", "be able to"? I understand that modals are defective, but maybe more fundamentally, why ...
Matěj Vais's user avatar
-1 votes
1 answer
68 views

Difference between must and have to, and might and may [closed]

So what is the difference between "you have to do this" and "you must do this"? Don't they mean the same? Same goes with "he may be in the library" and "he might be ...
Rifpan Afriansyah's user avatar
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1 answer
54 views

Is "should" in if-clause common in the USA?

I was wondering if the "should" in if-clause is commonly used nowadays, or if it's kinda outdated. E.g., If you should meet him, tell him he owes me.
Jon Stark's user avatar
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2 answers
60 views

Grammatical Structure of Complex Sentence

The Sentence in Question The legal “theories” of democracy that evolved in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were precisely intended to provide such definitions as would link certain actual or ...
seministic's user avatar
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0 answers
127 views

Meaning of "shall be of" in regulation language

There is an interesting style in some regulations e.g, in NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) I often see "shall be of". For instance; Sprinklers shall be of the open or automatic ...
Erhan Ertaş's user avatar
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2 answers
276 views

Can "may have" be used in a past-tense narrative?

In a narrative written in third person past tense, such as you'd find in most published books, can the phrase "may have" be used after verbs like "thought" or "said"? As ...
seadeepy's user avatar
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1 answer
580 views

"Will have done" vs "would have done" in expressing certainty

Recently, I have been looking a little bit deeper into the modal verb “will”, its usage and properties. In the process I have been able to find the usage I have already encountered, though have seen ...
Lizotte's user avatar
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6 votes
6 answers
1k views

What tense is "He would never see her again"?

In the following passage, what tense is the second sentence? John said goodbye to his mother. He would never see her again. I know it's not the past tense, which would be "He never saw her ...
Adam Carr's user avatar
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0 answers
35 views

Confusion with 'Would" [duplicate]

What could be the possible meaning of the sentence?: "If you would agree to my conditions, I would give you compensation." I would highly appreciate your response.
Mexal's user avatar
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12 votes
2 answers
3k views

If saying 'Why can't I ...?' is correct, would 'Why cannot I ...?' be technically correct?

Why can't I ...? is perfectly correct grammar as far as I can tell. But what happens if the contraction is removed, Why cannot I ...? This sounds bizarre, but would this be technically correct ...
CPlus's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
64 views

"I might do too"

Today I came read someone write "I might do too" and it struck me as non-idiomatic – but I was unable to identify the offending aspect. Near variations all sound acceptable to my ear: "...
Unrelated's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
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Another one on the past tense of must have

I'm having a disagreement with two of my (non-native English speaker) country people about the (un)grammaticality of the following sentences: I had to tell him at least five times before he actually ...
Petr Skocik's user avatar
3 votes
3 answers
444 views

Embedded phrases and clauses in "May I know..." questions

Hello everyone and thank you for your consideration. I am a professional English teacher and I usually can find answers for every grammar question, but I have one student that is very good at coming ...
Jack's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
50 views

Real Conditional Clause + Present Unreal Main Clause [closed]

Is it grammatical to say these four sentences? If I have studied it for four years, I should be good at it. If I had studied it for four years, I should be good at it. If I have been studying it ...
Hayli's user avatar
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1 answer
30 views

Is the verb 'will' modal in these sentences? [closed]

Everyone will get it: Virus warning. Virus will ‘get worse, very quickly’.
Виктория Полещук's user avatar
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1 answer
876 views

"Could have + past participle" in questions

I have a hard time understanding the meaning of the following question: Who could have taken my coffee? I thought I was the only person in the office today! All grammar books say that the structure &...
Ilnar 's user avatar
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1 answer
77 views

Why use subjunctive mood in 'all the force would be transferred back to the ship'?

When reading a discussion about whether the Titanic could have avoided sinking, I saw a sentence that puzzled me a lot, as following: – it would probably have survived. [When a ship hits an iceberg ...
Eglantine's user avatar
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0 answers
73 views

What is the history of the incomplete "can"/"could" verb?

The verb can/could is incomplete in the following sense. There is a present tense: I can You can He/she/it can […] There is also a past tense: I could You could He/she/it could […] But there is ...
Simd's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
98 views

Is there a term for a construction like "...can and has developed," where the omission ("develop") results in an apparent lack of agreement?

Perhaps I'm just overlooking the explanation in grammar references (and questions on ELU), but I haven't found a discussion of this construction (or its advisability): a verb is omitted after a modal, ...
DjinTonic's user avatar
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0 votes
0 answers
31 views

'I would have liked to see' or 'I would like to have seen'? [duplicate]

When teaching my students the usage of the verbs 'like, love, hate, prefer' with the modal verb 'would', I stumbled upon the following: "It's a shame we didn't see Anna. I would like to have seen ...
Eritrea Yunani's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
84 views

Should in the past [closed]

If I say "I should have done it." it means that I didn't do it. Imagine: there was something that needed to be done. And I did it. How do I say "should" about REAL past? I should ...
IlyaTretyakov's user avatar
-2 votes
1 answer
403 views

"Will have heard by now" sounds like bad usage to me; what is your opinion? [closed]

I posted the question here https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/295727/bad-usage-of-will-have but it was closed due to insufficient details or clarity. I'm trying here. The following sounds wrong ...
Zohar Levi's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
137 views

Which of the following sentences is correct: Can you not travel during this period? or Are you unable to travel during this period? [closed]

I came across the following sentence written by a supposedly native (British) English speaker in a text I'm currently editing and it immediately struck me as being odd: We offer special discounts to ...
Freddie Jay's user avatar

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