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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12 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
1 vote
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"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: "...
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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 ...
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3 votes
3 answers
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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 ...
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0 answers
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Real Conditional Clause Plus Present Unreal Main Clause

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

Everyone will get it: Virus warning. Virus will ‘get worse, very quickly’.
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1 answer
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"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 &...
0 votes
1 answer
66 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 ...
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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 ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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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, ...
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'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 ...
1 vote
1 answer
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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 ...
-2 votes
1 answer
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"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 ...
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1 answer
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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 ...
0 votes
3 answers
64 views

"can remind" or "can to remind"?

I found this sentence in a book that is as follows: Great poets are expressly aware of this, and they do what they can to remind the rest of us. I ask because on one site it says that the verb that ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Modal verbs (must, may, would) in reported-speech backshift

Could a native English speaker please finally clear this confusion for us? The textbooks are either silent or contradicting each other. Must Direct speech: "That must be wrong!" Later she ...
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"could" with the progressive aspect of a verb

Situation 1: My friends are playing outside. My leg is injured. Sitting at home, I'm thinking: It's pity that my leg is injured. I could be playing with them now. Situation 2: My friends are playing ...
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0 votes
1 answer
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Modal verbs usage [closed]

Why do we use "have to have a visa to travel abroad", but not "must have a visa to travel abroad"? As far as I'm concerned, it's impossible to travel overseas without a visa, it's ...
1 vote
0 answers
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If it's a page lead, I'll normally try to get hold of it [closed]

If it's a page lead, I'll normally try to get hold of it. If it's a summary I normally won't have time. I would normally read abstract and discussion, and skim the rest. If it's about quantum ...
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1 answer
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Use of "would" to depict uncertain future

Consider the following scenario: A clinical trial that was initiated in Jan 2021 is currently recruiting participants. The estimated enrollment of the trial is 50 participants. It is not always sure ...
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I can solve it/ can see the car

Context: In a math class, Teacher: solve this problem. After some time, when the students are still trying: Teacher to one of his students: John, can you solve it? (He is basically asking John whether ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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the difference between "must have + (past participle)" and "should have + (past participle)"

The following is a question from the university entrance examination held in 2013 using the DNC Japan Test. My brother (  ) have been very popular when he was a high school student. He still gets lots ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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Around 1970 in Britain, was this use of 'shall', in 'You shall go (=I let you go)', already out-of-date in daily conversation?

A striking grammatical difference between BE and AE is the various uses of auxiliary verbs (now, modal verbs) of will and shall. When I was a high school boy studying English without any chance of ...
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2 answers
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If he got the job, he would be very happy now

Consider this, please: Person A: My brother was supposed to appear for an interview at 8am, and now it's 10. I don't know if he got the job or not. But one thing is for sure, If he got the job, he ...
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1 answer
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Otherwise I would/could/might be playing now [closed]

Person A: Why are you sitting here and not playing with them? Person B: My leg is injured. Otherwise I would be playing with them now. My leg is injured. Otherwise I could be playing with them now. ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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“By whom” vs. “By who” with passive modal for forming questions

Consider this sentence: Children should be taught appropriate behavior by their parents. If We want to question the actual doer of the action (their parents), are these correct? By whom should ...
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2 votes
0 answers
143 views

Use of modal verbs when writing in past tense

I'm trying to write a story in past tense (I'm using deep POV). I have two characters who parted ways. One of them is regretting not spending more time with the other before leaving. Since he is ...
0 votes
0 answers
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In third conditional sentences, if the conditional clause precedes the independent clause, should a comma precede the independent clause?

(conditional clause with past perfect + comma + independent clause containing modal auxiliary + have + past participle) I learned this rule many years ago when I was a high school student, but I ...
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1 answer
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Checking back instructions and modal verbs

When my Russian students read a task or instruction or when I give instructions to them they often don't understand them immediately and ask questions like 'Should I do this exercise?', or 'Should I ...
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1 answer
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Varying modal verbs in counterfactual ("subjunctive") conditionals

There are some situations in which one would like to vary the modal verb in counterfactual conditionals, but it seems to be incorrect. "If things were otherwise, she would keep her promise."...
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Infinitive Phrase or Verb Constituent

I refer to Doing Grammar by Max Morenberg as my default grammar reference. Morenberg makes a distinction between infinitive phrases, which function as Noun Subjects & Objects (SC, NDO, etc), and ...
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1 answer
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Meaning of 'could have done something'? [closed]

In the following sentence, If you had tried harder you could have succeeded. does could have succeeded mean would have been able to succeed, or might have been able to succed, or is it ambiguous if ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Do you say needn't have in AmE?

My textbook says that you can use this construction "needn't have" if you want to say that something that you have done in the past wasn't necessary and you didn't know it was unnecessary, ...
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4 answers
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Is "Not that we would have expected anything else, of course" sound?

In the GSMArena article Xiaomi denies any ties to the Chinese military in response to being blacklisted by the US, "would have" is used: Today Xiaomi has issued the following statement on ...
0 votes
2 answers
107 views

"must + [verb]" past simple

Is there a way to use must in past simple? Present simple: You must run. Past perfect: You must have ran. Past simple doesn't work: You must ran. Not even with another word to indicate past (since ...
4 votes
1 answer
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Does "could" always mean something less likely than "can", even in backshifted subordinate clauses?

Does the could version always show more uncertainty/doubt than the can version in each of ⑴, ⑵, and ⑶? You can/could get very nasty skin diseases from bathing in dirty water. You can/could get into ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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What are the substitute verbs for the modal auxiliary verb 'may/might' when talking about possibility?

He can play. = He is able to play. He cannot play. = He is unable to play. He must not play. = He is forbidden to play. He is prohibited from playing. He must play. = He is compelled/forced/obliged to ...
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0 votes
1 answer
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Is "must" more used than "have to" in written language?

I was taught that there is a difference in the kind of obligation one can express through 'must' and 'have to'. If I say I must do this. I imply that I feel an inner urge to do this, whereas if I say ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Subjunctive Mood with the Type 3 Conditional or "could with the perfect infinitive" expressing ability, theoretical possibility, etc. in the past

From NBC news’s ‘Breakthrough finding’ reveals why certain Covid-19 patients die: "Before Covid, their condition was silent," Bastard said. "Most of them hadn't gotten sick before.&...
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2 answers
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Why are we using a past modal verb with a present verb in this sentence?

it is typically restricted to military aircraft except for the legendary Concorde, which was able to speeds of up to three times that of passenger planes today Why are we using 'was able to' with '...
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1 answer
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Why is "be" in "this court rules he be put on probation" an infinitive?

I was watching an old movie, The Little Rascals, and one of the lines from a kid goes: Your Honor, may I suggest... this court rules he be put on probation. I am not sure if be is in infinitive form ...
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'May' and 'can' differences [duplicate]

What's the difference between may and can in the following context? 1- Our company has decided to organize a online quiz competition for students all over India on this Monday at 7:00 PM. Those who ...
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1 answer
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"I did not grew / grow up" - which one is the correct tense? [closed]

There are actually quite a few threads on the question of grew or grow up, but none with the verb did and the state "being poor" instead of a location, so I allow myself to ask it here. ...
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Modal verbs with passive continuous [closed]

Project work might be being done. Is this correct?
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2 answers
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Correct usage of modal verbs: should have / might have / would have

Context: There are two lecturers in the particular faculty in the university and both of them are teaching the same subject as two parts. The first lecturer completed his part and the second lecturer ...
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using which in relative cause as an object

For example, is this sentence correct? “If your friend isn’t reliable, he/she can use the things which your friend knows about you against you.”
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The backshift of the forms of infinitives with modal verbs

Must can be used in reported speech. I told him that he must stay home. However, what happens if we use other forms of the infinitive? What is Jack doing? He must be watching TV. 2)I said that ...
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1 answer
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Using "may not" when something is not sometimes true

When we want to say something is sometimes true or happens sometimes, we use "can": A vegetarian diet can provide enough calories for a child's normal growth. What modal would you use if ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Is "must have four cats" the same as "must have got four cats"?

On Cambridge Online Dictionary, the phrase "have got" is considered a formal alternative to simply "have", for example: He has four cats. He has got four cats. I want to ask: ...
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1 answer
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He could be released next year

Consider this sentence, please: He was jailed five years ago and could be released next year. Can I say that sentence 1) has two interpretations depending on the the degree of stress placed on "...
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