Modal Auxiliaries

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SLMtitle.png 5. Modal Auxiliaries

Chapter Outline

5.0 Introduction
5.1 Objectives
5.2 Understanding the uses of ‘shall and will’
5.3 Understanding the uses of ‘would and should’
5.4 Understanding the uses of ‘can, could, may, might, must, have to’
'5.5 Understanding the uses of ‘used to and had to’
5.6 Let Us Sum Up
5.7 Answers to Self Check Exercises

SLMinto.png Introduction

In the previous unit we studied tenses in English. We learnt how to communicate in various tenses. Now let us turn to another important aspect of the English language that is MODAL AUXILIARIES. You have always come across the words like ‘shall, will, should, would, could, may, might, used to, had to, have to, don’t have to, need not’, etc.

Modals are those helping verbs that express the mode of action denoted by the main verb. We have already studied main verb earlier. These modals are used to express ability, power, permission, request, possibilities, willingness, etc. They have a special place in the English language as they perform certain structural function in sentence formation. In this unit you will see how we can form sentences to communicative various language functions using them. You will realize that composing sentences using tenses is not enough and all things cannot be expressed using tenses, all language functions cannot be done using only tenses. Modal Auxiliaries help us in doing functions like warning some one, making suggestions, giving advice, threatening others, talking about memories, etc. Good understanding of these modal auxiliaries is necessary to form various sentences. As usual like tenses we shall study them as ‘structure words’ for sentence formation for various language functions.

Serious mistakes are committed in the use of different modals both in reading and writing. It is also because most of us do not know certain facts about modals and use them according to the rules of grammar but according to our own convenience. In this unit you will learn to use them correctly in your daily usage. This will expand your thinking in English and will help you in generating text and speech in English effortlessly.

SLMobj.png Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you are expected to learn about:

After studying and working through the activities in this unit, you are expected to be able to:
1.Understand what are auxiliaries and their role as structure words in English
2.Form sentences using these auxiliaries
3.Describe the differences between and among these auxiliaries
4.List common errors in sentence formation using auxiliaries
5.Think and generate spoken and written text in English

5.2 Understanding the uses of ‘shall and will’

We know that we use shall and will to talk about or refer to the future. Wrong use of shall and will can change the meaning of the sentence altogether.

Study the following table very carefully:


This table tells us about how to use shall and will. Let us see them in details with examples. We will then compare the usages of shall and will:

Use of shall

  • When we use shall with the first person we express simple future tense. But this is possible only in if the sentences are assertive. Read the following examples:

1.I shall buy a car.
2.I shall go home.
3.I shall call you back.

  • Shall can also be used with second or third person (that is you, your, he, she, it, Rita, Raju, etc.) under the following conditions:

a)If you want to express threat or threaten someone Example:
You shall be punished if you don’t pay taxes on time.
You shall not enter this place again. He shall not see you again.

In the above examples the threat is silent and not openly given. It warns that if you don’t do this and this then you see what happens. Thus we express threat using shall for second and third persons.

b) If you want to convey a sense of promise that is when you want to promise something.
Study the following sentences. See what the expression is. Example:
He shall be given a reward for this act of bravery.
You shall be honoured for your contribution to the community.
You shall receive certificate only if you complete all assignments.

c)We can express an order using shall for second and third person. We need not say, “I order you to do this or that’. Just use shall as shown in the following examples. Example:
You shall have to take the responsibility of this disaster.
He shall complete all the pending work by today evening.
She shall report the whole matter to me tomorrow.

You will find some hint of ‘must do’ in these sentences.

d)When we want to convey certainty or determination. Look at these examples:
If you secure first class, you shall be given scholarship.
You shall do what I command. You shall stay here till I come.

Thus, when we use shall with second and third person we express our higher level of authority. It is better to use when we know that there is authority to speak so. For example, we humans cannot say, “It shall rain.” You cannot order the nature to rain… Only God can say, “It shall rain.”

Other uses of ‘SHALL’
We use shall for making suggestions or proposals. Study the examples given below:
1.Shall we go for a walk now?
2.Shall we accept the offer?
3.Shall we implement the new policy?

Shall is also used for making an offer.
1. Shall I take your bag?
2. Shall I connect the phone for you?

Use of will

  • Will does just the opposite of shall. In assertive sentence will expresses simple future tense with second and third person.

Read the following sentences: 1. You will write a letter.
2. She will present a new dance.
3. He will report the matter to the Principal.

  • But when we use will with the first person (I, we, etc.) then the meaning changes. Note how we can use will with the first person as shown below:

1. If you keep abusing me I will break your head.
2. I will not tolerate this nonsense any more.
3. We will show you what we can do when the time comes.

Do you understand? Read the above sentence again. Does it simply indicate a future action? It expresses a clear threat, a warning. It says, “Stop or else…”

Thus when we use will with the first person we can express threat.

In the same way, we can express a promise openly. Study the sentences given below:
1. I will surely help you in this venture.
2. We will do what is necessary to get you elected.

We can convey a sense of determination using will with the first person.
1) I will kill him if he does that again.
2) We will enter into this business if we see enough profit.

Do you feel the expression of determination of the speaker – he openly says that he will KILL HIM… You can even expect some proof of the speaker’s action.

We can express an intention using will with first persons as follows:
1.I will sell my shares next month.
2.We will travel to Nagpur tomorrow.
3.We will not sell this bungalow now.

Now you understand very well that we must not use shall and will carelessly. Our readers and audience may seriously misunderstand us. Imagine how you will feel if you hear a five year old boy telling you, “My father shall not talk to me regarding ….’

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) -1
Now let us see how much you have understood using will and shall.

(i) Answer the questions below as instructed.
(ii) Compare your answer with the one given in the end of the Unit.

Exercise I
Use will or shall in the following sentences:
a)I ……….. inform my boss about this incidence.
b)…….you please help me in this matter?
c)You ….. not play here again.
d)He…… complain if you beat him.
e)They ….. buy the new bungalow.
f)…… we go out for dinner tonight?

Exercise – II
Use shall or will appropriately and compose sentences to do following communication functions:
1.Offer to open the window.
2.Warning that visitors should not touch the flowers in the garden.
3.Promise that those who get first class will be rewarded.
4.Command that both Gita and Prem will report to the Manager tomorrow.

5.3 Uses of Would and Should

Uses of Would

Would is the past tense of will and it is used in the following ways.

1.As the future tense of past in the indirect speech.
Raju told me that he would go to America on Friday.
Sanjay said that he would not appear for exam.

2.To express Past Habit
I would go to my friend’s house every evening.
Geeta would go out for a walk daily

3.To express Determination
My father would go out for a morning walk regularly.
Sanjay would do you it whether you like it or not.

4.To express suggestion
Would you take your studies seriously?
Would you take medicines on time?

5.To express polite request
You use would you or will you to make a polite request to someone when you are more important than them. Would you is more polite then will you.
Jaya, would you open the letters on my desk, please?
Would you please give me your umbrella?

6.To express wish or desire
Would that I were Prime Minister of India!
I wish I would go to America!

7.To express preference
I would prefer tea to coffee.
I would rather fail than copy in the examination.

8.To express Unreal condition
Had I car, I would have reached on time.
If I were Prime Minister of India, I would….

Use of Should
Should is the past tense of shall. It is used in the following ways.
1.To express the Future in the past tenses
I told him that I should go to Bombay the next day.
He said that you should report for duty on Monday.

2.To express duty or obligation
We should respect our elders.
You should always speak the truth.
We should help the poor.

3.To express advice or suggestion
You should work hard to pass the examination
You should go out for a morning walk daily.
Government should set up new industries

4.To express request
I should like to say that he is not to blame.
We should like to say that they have not done this mischief.

5.To express surprise
It is really sad that he should lose in the first round.
It is very surprising that they should lose the match.

6.To express supposition or improbable action
Should they work hard, they will pass.
Should you go to the market, bring a picture-book for me.

7.With lest in order to express purpose
I worked hard lest I should fail.
Walk fast let you should miss the train.

8.To make conditional sentences
Should it rain, we shall not go out.
Should you speak the truth, I shall pardon you.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 2

(i) Answer the questions below as instructed.
(ii) Compare your answer with the one given in the end of the Unit.

Exercise I
Write one piece of positive advice and one piece of negative advice using should or shouldn’t for these situations:
1. In a hospital (be calm) ( make a lot of noise)
_________________________ ____________________________
2. At work (arrive late) ( work hard)
_________________________ _____________________________
3. On the motorway (drive carefully) (drive close to the car in front)
___________________________ ____________________________
4. In the library (play music) (work in silence)
___________________________ __________________________

5.4 Understanding the uses of ‘can, could, may, might, must, have to’

Use of Can

Can means to be able to or to know how to. It is used to express strength may be physical, mental, of the official authority, of wealth etc. It is used as follows:

1.To express Ability
You use can to say that someone has the ability to do something. Examples:
He can speak English fluently.
I can solve this question.
My brother can drive.
Can you speak French.

2.To express Possibility
You use can to say that something is possible.
Swimming after eating can be dangerous.
Making mistakes can be a good way of learning.
Anyone can read this letter.

3.To express Permission
You can go for a picnic now.
You can go home after doing your work.
You cannot leave the office without my permission.

'4.In the form of Phrase'
I can’t help laughing.
The child can’t help weeping.

5.To express Disposition
She can tell a lie at any time.
We can’t believe them because they can cheat us.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 3
Rewrite these questions replacing know how to with can or can’t:

1.Do you know how to swim?
Answer: Can you swim?
2.Do you know how to drive? _______________________________
3.Do you know how to play the piano? __________________________
4.Where could we find someone who knows how to repair clocks? _______________________

Use of Could

Could is past tense of can and is used in the indirect form as follows:
1.Past tense of Power
I asked him if the headmaster could give me admission.
He asked me if I could help him.

2.Past tense of Ability
I could solve the whole paper in one hour.
She could not climb the tree.
He could sing and speak well.

3.Past tense of Polite Request
Could you spare some time for me.
Could you lend me your book?
Could you please post this letter?

4.Past tense of possibility
You could have caught the train if you had run fast.
If he had taken the medicines regularly, he could have recovered earlier.

5.Feeling of Impatience
What could I do now?
How could it happen?

6.Past tense Phrase
The child couldn’t help weeping.
The Headmaster couldn’t help giving him admission.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 4
Complete the following sentences using could. For example:

I wish I ___________ French. (to speak)
I wish I could speak French.

You wished you _________ some chocolate. (to buy)
You wished you could buy some chocolate.

1. He wishes he ______________ them. (to call)
2. We wish we _______________ more time sightseeing. (to spend)
3. She wished she _______________ you. (to visit)
4. They will wish they _______________ to the concert. (to go)
5. I wished I _______________ my way home. (to find)
6. He wishes he _______________ famous. (to become)
7. I wish I _______________ it to you. (to describe)

Use of May

1.To express permission
May I come in sir? Yes, you may.
May I use this pen? Yes, you may.
You may go there.

It may rain today.
You may get a prize.

We eat so that we may live.
He works hard so that he may pass.
I go out for a morning walk so that I may be healthy.

4.Wish or Prayer
May you live long!
May God bless you with a son!
May her soul rest in peace!

Use of Might

1.The past tense of May
The teacher said that he might go home.
I asked him if I might see his watch.

He ran fast so that he might catch the train.
He played well so that he might win the match.
She wore new clothes so that she might look beautiful.

3.Doubtful Possibility
He has not worked hard, but he might pass.
She is working hard, she might win a scholarship.
Sarla has not attended my birthday party, but she might send a gift.

4.Possibility of Past tense
The tortoise said that he might win the race.
The teacher said that I might win a scholarship.
The doctor said that the patient might recover soon.

5.Permission in past tense
The teacher said that we might go for the picnic.
The captain said that we might play match.

6.Future Condition
If he gets money, he might go to England.
If she works hard, she might top the class.
If they play well, they might defeat the opposite team easily.

7.To express Good wishes in the past
The teacher wished that I might live long.
We wished that India might win the match.

Remember: The negative of might is might not or mightn’t; the negative of may is may not (there is no short form):

‘We might not be able to sell these chairs.’
‘The traffic is bad, so I mightn’t be back before 10 or 11

There is no important difference in meaning between may and might, but might is a little less sure than may:

Take some paper and pens. They might be useful.
Take some paper and pens. They may be useful.

Use of Must

We use must to express necessity, obligation, determination, certainty or belief, emphatic advice, possibility, expectation, prohibition.

1.Necessity :
You use must to say that it is necessary for someone to do something; the negative is mustn’t
a. in the present:
I must go now, I don’t want to be late.
You must work hard to get good marks. the future:
I must talk to him tomorrow afternoon.
You mustn’t' forget to phone me.

Soldiers must obey their commanders.
Parents must look after their children.

I must leave for Mumbai today.
I must try my luck.
I must finish this work today.

4.You use must when you are giving your opinion about something that is very important, when you want to make a strong suggestion, or when you are giving someone an invitation:
You must go and see the new film It’s great.
This is a book that you really must read.
You must visit us.

Use of Have to

1.You use has to/have to when you talk about external obligation, such as when a law or someone else says that something is necessary or important:

Because Seema is an airhostess, she has to get up early and help with the children’s breakfast.
Vandana won’t be in work today. She has to see the doctor.

2.You use don’t have to to say that something is not necessary
You don’t have to do the whole exercise.
Tomorrow is Sunday, so I don’t have to get up early.

3. In informal English, you can use have got to instead of have to:
It’s late. We’ve got to go.
Where have you got to send that letter?

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 5

(i) Answer the questions below as instructed.
(ii) Compare your answer with the one given in the end of the Unit.

Exercise 1
Complete the sentences using has to or have to:
1.Because Jaya is a student she ___________ read a lot of
2.Sachin is a sportsman. He ___________ keep very fit.
3.If you want to be a pilot you _________ have good eyesight.
4.Before you can drive a car you ___________ take a test.
5.If you break something in a shop you __________ pay for it.

5.5 understanding the uses of ‘used to and had to’

Use of Used to

Used to is used to express some past habit. It is used in the following types of sentences: 1. Affirmative Sentences 2. Negative sentences 3. Interrogative sentences 4. Passive voice sentences.

1.Affirmative Sentences
Gandhiji used to spin for an hour daily.
When I was young, I used to work for twelve hours.
He used to pay us a visit every now and then.

2.Negative sentences
She used not to tell lies.
He used to not to smoke; but now he is a chainsmoker.

3.Interrogative Sentences
Used he to drink when he was young?
Used she to work hard when she was a student?

4.Passive Voice Sentences
She is used to taking tea.
I am used to simple life.
He got used to rising early.
We are not used to telling lies.

Use of had to
1.You use had to or didn’t have to for the past of both must and have to:
I had to go to Mumbai yesterday for a meeting.
The doctor told me I had to stop smoking.
‘Did you have to wait long for the bus?’

2.You use do, does and did to make questions with have to and not have to:
‘When does Dilip have to go back to work?’
Do you have to book a table in that restaurant?’
Did everyone have to wear a uniform before?’

SLMsum.png Results

SLMfeedb.png Answers to SAQs

Self Check Exercises 1

Exercise I
a.I will inform my boss about this incidence.
b.Will you please help me in this matter?
c.You shall not play here again.
d.He will complain if you beat him.
e.They will buy the new bungalow.
f.Shall' we go out for dinner tonight?

'Exercise – II
1.Shall I open the window?
2.Visitors shall not touch the flowers in the garden.
3.Those who will get first class shall be rewarded.
4.Both Gita and Prem shall report to the Manager tomorrow.

Self Check Exercise 2
Exercise I
1. You should be clam in a hospital. You should not make a lot of noise in a hospital.
2. You should not arrive late at work. You should work hard.
3. On the motorway you should drive carefully. You should not drive close to the car in front.
4. You should not play music in the library. You should work in silence.

Self Check Exercise 3
2.Can you drive?
3.Can you play the piano?
4.Where could we find someone who can repair clocks?

Self Check Exercises 4
1. He wishes he could call them.
2. We wish we could spend more time sightseeing.
3. She wished she could visit you.
4. They will wish they could go to the concert.
5. I wished I could find my way home.
6. He wishes he could become famous.
7. I wish I could describe it to you.

Self Check Exercise 5

1.Because Jaya is a student she has to read a lot of books.
2.Sachin is a sportsman. He has to keep very fit.
3.If you want to be a pilot you have to have good eyesight.
4.Before you can drive a car you have to take a test.
5.If you break something in a shop you have to pay for it.