Verbs

Modals

Modals


are auxiliary verbs and are sometimes called helping verbs.

There are action verbs, linking verbs, and helping verbs.

Helping verbs HELP the main verb in the sentence express verb tense or meaning.


Forms:

  • Affirmative: Helping verb + main verb. The main verb is always placed after the helping verb.
    • They can sing.
    • He must go.
    • I should eat the last piece of chocolate cake.
  • Negative: Helping verb + main verb. The main verb is always placed after the helping verb. Not is placed between the helping verb and the main verb.
    • They can’t sing. They can’t sing
    • He must not go. He mustn’t go.
    • I should not eat the last piece of chocolate cake..
  • Interrogative: Helping verb + main verb. The main verb is always placed after the helping verb. The subject is placed between the helping verb and the main verb.
    • Can they sing?
    • Must he go?
    • Should I eat the last piece of chocolate cake?

Common helping verbs:

Modal auxiliary verbs express possibility, obligation, permission, ability, necessity, and intention

Could, should, would, can, could, shall, will, may, might, must, ought to, have to

  • I might buy a new coat. (Possibility)
  • I might not buy a new coat. (Possibility)
  • I must call my grandparents. (Strong obligation)
  • I mustn’t (must not) call my grandparents. (Strong obligation)
  • Must I call my grandparents? (Strong obligation)
  • I may drive to work tomorrow. (Possibility)
  • I may not drive to work tomorrow. (Possibility)
  • May I drive to work tomorrow? (Permission)
  • She should go to the doctor. (Strong recommendation)
  • She shouldn’t (should not) go to the doctor. (Strong recommendation)
  • Should she go to the doctor? (Strong recommendation)
  • I would go to the movie with you, if you asked. (Possibility – Willingness)
  • I would not (wouldn’t) go to the movie with you, if you asked. (Possibility – Willingness)
  • Would I go to the movie with you, if you asked? (Possibility – Willingness)
  • I will join you. (Intention)
  • I will not (won’t) join you. (Intention)
  • I may have a cookie. (Possibility OR permission)
  • I may not have a cookie. (Possibility OR permission)
  • May I have a cookie? (Permission)
  • When I was younger, I could run a mile. (Ability in the past)
  • When I was younger, I couldn’t (could not) run a mile. (Ability in the past)
  • Could I run a mile when I was younger? (Ability in the past)
  • I can go to the doctor with you. (Ability in the present or future)
  • I cannot (can’t) go to the doctor with you. (Ability in the present or future)
  • Can I go to the doctor with you? (Permission)
  • Can’t I go (can I not go) to the doctor with you? (Permission)

Tip: The reason we call them helping verbs is because they add meaning to the main verb. Keep in mind that the meaning changes. Choose your modal carefully!

  • I may go to the party.
  • I have to go to the party.
  • I could go to the party.
  • I will go to the party.

There are other helping verbs:

To be: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been

  • I am (I’m) not working on my car.
  • They are (they’re) going to the visit their grandparents.
  • Is she playing outside?
  • They were offered a trip to Disney.
  • Was the report written by our hard-working team?
  • Have they gone to the museum?
  • He was trying to catch the bus.

To have: have, has, had

  • Has she seen the movie three times?
  • I have read some interesting books.
  • I invited them to join us for dinner, because they hadn’t (had not) eaten.

To do: do, does, did: used for emphasis

  • She did speak to the teacher about her grade.
  • Did she speak to her manager about her evaluation?
  • I did tell her about our meeting.
  • I didn’t (did not) tell her about the meeting.
  • He does speak English.
  • He doesn’t (doesn’t) speak English.
  • Did he stop at the red light?

Example: Lutz wants to emphasize that he called.

  • Inge: Why didn’t you call the client?
  • Lutz:  I did call. She wasn’t available.
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