Modals and Auxiliaries
Words like will, would, shall, should, can , could, may, might, must, ought to, need, dare and used to etc when used with verbs (usually before the principal verb) expressing the mode or manner of the action denoted by the verb are known as Modals or Modal Auxiliaries.
Modals use such ideas as ability or capacity, probability or possibility, permission, command, compulsion, duty, obligation, propriety etc.
In the above examples words in bold represents modal
In most of the cases modals indicate present or future time however sometime they also represent past times.
Uses of Modals:
Will is used:
1.To express the Pure Future with second and third person (you, he, she, it, they):
2.To express willingness, intention, promise, determination with the first person (I, we):
3.To express a characteristic habit, assumption, invitation or request and insistence.
Important: will is never used with the first person in the Interrogative.
Shall is used:
1. To express Pure Future with the first person (I, we).
2. To ask for advice, suggestion, request etc. with the first person (I,we) in the Interrogative:
3. To express command, threat, warning, promise, determination etc. with the second and third persons. (you, he, she, they etc.)
Important: when is doubt, use will.
Would (past form of will) is used):
1. To express a habit.
2. To express a polite request.
3. To express a wish, preference.
4. To express an imaginary condition.
Should (past form of shall) is used:
1. To express duty/ obligation or advisability or desirability:
Important: should often implies a mild suggestion or advice. It is milder form of must and ought to. To express logical inference, supposition, assumption, possibility/ probability:
2. To express purpose after ‘lest’ (in expression of fear).
May is used:
1. To express possibility:
2. To express permission:
3. To express wish, faith, hope:
4. To express a purpose:
Might (past form of may) is used:
1.To express less possibility:
2.To express permission:
3.To express guess:
Can is used:
1. To express permission:
2. To express possibility:
3. To express ability or capacity:
Remember: -Can never indicates past time.
In the sense of ability, the past and the future tense forms are was/were able to and shall/will be able to
Could (past form of can) is used:
1. To express ability/ capacity in the past:
2. To express a polite request:
3. To express possibility under certain conditions:
Must is used:
1. To express obligation or duty:
2. To express necessity or compulsion:
3. To express emphatic advice or determination:
4. To express assumption, conclusion/ inference, certainty/ strong probability:
Need (modal auxiliary) is used:
1.Chiefly to show absence of necessity or compulsion in the negative or interrogative.
It does not take‘s’ in the third person singular present tense. Its past is had to in the affirmative,need not have in the negative and need have in the interrogative.
Ought (always followed by a to infinitive) is used:
1. To express the subject’s obligation or duty:
there is no external authority in ought as there is in must which expresses the speaker’s authority.
Must compels action on the part of the subject.
Ought expresses duty, inner conscience, a sensible action or advice. It has the same sense as should.
2.To give advice:
Note the difference:
Could + have refer to past
Dare (modal auxiliary) means ‘to have courage’. It is generally used in the negative and interrogative. The negative is formed by dare not and the interrogative by inversion. It does not take‘s’ in the third person singular present tense.
Both dare and need can be used as main verbs. Then they take ‘s’ in the third person singular present tense. They form their negative and interrogative with do and are followed by ‘to infinitive’
Used (to) is used:
1. To express past habit:
2.To express the existence of something in the past: