Unit 27: MODAL VERBS
Modal verbs are auxiliaries (Unit 3). They never change form. They show what we think or feel
about the lexical verb (Unit 3) in the sentence. The important modals are:
can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should and must.
With verb formation
Put the modal verb before any other verbs. The next verb is always base form (Unit 14).
BEFORE ONE-WORD VERB FORMATIONS
[M]:MODAL [B]:BASE FORM
He [M] can [B] play the piano very well.
The journey [M] might [B] be uncomfortable.
NOTICE: Modals do not have an -s form and we never use an -s form for the next verb. We say: He might come. NOT mights come or might comes
BEFORE CONTINUOUS FORMATIONS (Unit 17)
[M]:MODAL [B]:be -ing FORM
I [M] will [B] be arriving tomorrow.
She [M] must [B] be learning Arabic.
NOTICE: Always use be after a modal NOT am, is, are, was or were.
BEFORE PERFECT SIMPLE FORMATIONS (Unit 24)
[M]:MODAL [B]:have PAST PARTICIPLE
He [M] may [B] have got lost.
They [M] should [B] have arrived by now.
BEFORE PERFECT CONTINUOUS FORMATIONS (Unit 24)
[M]:MODAL [B]:have been -ing FORM
She [M] could [B] have been watching.
She [M] might [B] have been playing.
NOTICE: Always use have after a modal NOT has or had, after a modal.
As auxiliary verbs
Modals are the same as other auxiliaries for making:
QUESTIONS (Unit 9) - the modal goes before the subject:
[M] Can you help me please?
How many days [M] will you be staying?
NEGATIVE SENTENCES (Unit 5) - the modal goes before not:
He [M] couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag.
You [M] might not have succeeded without his help.
NOTICE: We write negative can as one word: cannot (we usually say can't)
NOTICE: In speaking, won't (= will not); shan't (= shall not)
SHORT ANSWERS (Unit 11) - use the modal:
EXAMPLE: [M] Should we tell her about it? Yes, we [M] should.
TAG QUESTIONS (Unit 12) - use only the modal in the tag:
EXAMPLE: We [M] wouldn't have got there on time, [M] would we?
The important meanings of each modal verb are in the next units (28-33). Generally, modals say something about:
HOW TRUE (OR NOT TRUE) SOMETHING IS:
After that work, you [M] must be tired. = I am sure you are tired.
He [M] may have got lost. = Perhaps he has got lost.
HOW GOOD (OR BAD) SOMETHING IS:
You [M] must work harder. I think it is good to work hard.
They [M] should not do that. I think it is bad to do that.
The meaning of a modal verb in an affirmative sentence is not always the same as its meaning in a question or a negative sentence. The next units (28-33) will tell you the exact meanings for each verb.