Saturday, April 25

Lesson 6: What are Modal Verbs?

Modal Verbs add a special meaning to your sentence. And they are fun to use. They just become confusing when they are in the past tense and when they have many different meanings. 

Anyway, at this point you should try to use Modal Verbs freely. Enjoy practicing them to add spice or flavor to your sentence. 

Take a look at our example below:                        

You can see how a simple sentence of fact like "I study English" can change meaning because of Modal Verbs. Notice, too, how each Modal Verb can give a different meaning to the sentence.

Here's a list of the Modal Verbs as they are arranged from strong to weak: 

Some students might be surprised because they learned in high school that Should is the same level as Must or Have to. This is a wrong idea. In fact, Should is just a middle-level Modal Verb

Now, here's the same list of Modal Verbs together with their basic meaning:

must/ have to = duty/ obligation

will= future Tense/prediction 

would = imaginary situation 

should = advice/ opinion 

can= ability / permission

could= possibility/ guess

might/may = possibility/ guess

If you put "have to" inside the sentence "I study English," your sentence "have to study English" means that it's your duty - you don't have a choice and sometimes you are forced to do it. Next, if you say "should study English," then the sentence isn't so strong and it just talks about an opinion or sometimes advice. It's the right thing to do but you can still choose if you don't want to. Finally, if you say "can study English," this means you have the ability or power to do the action.

As you can see, each Modal Verb changes the meaning of the sentence. So Modal Verbs are very useful when you want to express what you think or how you feel exactly.

It will be very practical for you to remember the formula to use Modal Verbs: anytime you want to use them, they must always be followed by the base form of the Verb.     

Some of you might already know, but a Verb has three forms: 
  1. the base, 
  2. the Past 
  3. the P.P. 

Today we need to practice the first one. Every time you want to use a Modal Verb please make sure that the word after it is a Verb and it is in the base form.

This means that it's wrong to say "I will happy" or "They must dancing." 

In the first sentence, you are using an Adjective after the Modal Verb so it's impossible. You can change it into a Verb ("I will smile" or  “I will laugh”). Or, you can add a Verb to the word "happy." And because "happy" is an Adjective, as we learned in Lesson 3, we should say: "I will be happy."

The example "They must dancing" is the same. You must change your Verb to the base form - They must dance - or, if you really want to use the V+ing, then you need to combine it with the Be Verb They must be dancing.    
These are very simple examples, but you can see how your teacher and native speakers can have good grammar in their sentence. They just follow a rule on how to use one word and sometimes they combine two rules (but they never break a rule)

Take a look: 

               Rule of the Modal Verbs                                           Rule of the Adjective

                    will + base verb                               +                         be + happy


                                        Rule of the Modal Verbs and the Adjective Combined:

                                                                   will be happy


            Rule of the Modal Verbs                                         Rule of the V+ing

            must + base verb                             +                         be + dancing

Rule of the Modal Verbs and the V+ing combined:

  must be dancing

This is what happens inside the head of your teacher. Your teacher remembers rules (not too many, don't worry) and always follows them. The difference between your teacher and you is that he can use and combine the rules very, very fast inside his mind. This skill needs a lot of practice. 

First you have to learn more rules; then of course you need to keep on practicing them. But what I've taught you so far (the formulas for the "Be" Verb, Adjective, the V+ing, the “Have” Verb, and the Modal Verbs) are already a big part of the English language. If you can remember those formulas, if you can use them in your life (not just on paper), then you will soon become a good English speaker.

I don't mean that you should worry too much or be too afraid to speak. It's Ok to make mistakes because it's from our mistakes that we can develop. But you do need to realize why you made a mistake and to try and avoid making the same mistake in the future. You can do this by remembering a few simple formulas. 

Right now let's end our lesson on Modal Verbs because you will have many other chances to study them deeper. For now it's enough to have an idea how and why Modal Verbs are used. Let's review everything we've learned...

The Center of the English Solar System (The S and the V)

copyright free images / caltiva

Let's go back to Figure No.2...

Now that I've taught all the different Verbs in English, use them. Every time you speak in English, try to speak in a complete sentence. You should have a Subject and a Verb.

A complete sentence has a Subject and a Verb. But there’s one special case. When we give a command or make a request, it’s enough to say:

Clean your room.

Do your homework.

Please take out the trash.

Please pass me the salt.

Surprisingly, all the sentences above are also complete sentences. They are called “Imperative” sentences and they always start with a base verb (not V+ing or anything else)

The strange thing is, Imperative sentences don’t have any Subject Their Subject is always the same: “You,” and we can not see it. Like so:

(You) Clean your room.

(You) Do your homework.

(You) Please pass me the salt.

(You) Please lend me a pen.  

You should never say “You inside an Imperative sentence. You don't need to put a Subject anyway. When you want to give a command or make a request, always start your sentence with a base verb (don't use a V+ing like some students do).

This is true only when you want to give a command or make a request. That’s why this is a special case. In other situations or 95% of the time, when you speak in English, always try to make a complete sentence. Remember this formula: 

Sentence = S + V

Like I said in Lesson 1, one of the first problems of students is their habit of speaking in words and phrases, not complete sentences. When you study any kind of language, habits are hard to change. If you speak in words and phrases, your teacher can't help you. But if you try to make complete sentences, even not perfectly, your teacher can guide you.
So, from today, don't say "Yes" or "No" or "Me" or "Supermarket." Always make sure that what you say has 2 parts – the Subject and the Verb. So you should say "I can" or "He isn't." "I will" or "He goes to the supermarket." You can make a wrong sentence: "He go supermarket" or "They is coming" but that's Ok. At least your ability is developing, not stopped. 
Keep on learning !

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