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Modal verbs are helping/auxiliary verbs that give additional information about the function of the main verb that follows. They express attitudes such as ability, possibility, permission, and suggestion.
- Suggestion: Students should start working on essays early.
- Necessity: They must buy their tickets today.
- Possibility: She may be sick.
Modals in the English language
- can/could/be able to
- must/have to
How to use modals
- Never use -s, -d, or -ing endings with modals
e.g. Participants can respond to the questionnaire at their own pace.
- Use the infinitive without "to" after modals (except in "ought to")
e.g., Participants might
tobe unsure of what the question is asking.
- Use inversion to turn a sentence that uses a modal into a question
Sentence using a modal: Participants can be between the ages of 13-15.
Question using a modal: Can participants be between the ages of 13-15?
- Add "not" after the modal to make it negative
e.g., They could not understand the research question.
- Never use two modals together
e.g., The treatment group might
coulddemonstrate a different response from the control group.
- Simple modals show present or future time.
modal + base form
e.g., We can study now. (present)
e.g., He should leave now. (future)
- Progressive modals express an activity in progress at the moment of speaking or show an action in progress at a specific time in the future.
modal + be + present participle
e.g., They must be sleeping. (present progressive)
e.g., She should be leaving soon. (future progressive)
- Perfect modals express a past action.
modal + have + past participle
e.g., I should have studied last night. (present perfect)
- Perfect progressive modals express an activity in progress at a specific time in the past.
modal + have been + present participle
e.g., You might have been sleeping when I called. (present perfect progressive)
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