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Modal Verbs

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Mitzi Passos

on 13 March 2014

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Transcript of Modal Verbs

Modal Verbs
Form
Modals: Meaning and Use
For beginners
Unmarked first;
Chunks
Pronunciation
and traffic

Modal verbs

Yes, I’
d
like to be a racer!
Would you like to be a pilot?

Yes, I
could
ride a bike very well when I was young.

Could you ride a bike?

Now I
can
drive, but when I was a child, I
couldn’t
drive real cars.

Can you drive?

You don’t
have to
stop, but
Must I stop?

No, you
shouldn’t
.
Should I speed up?
No, you
can’t
go ahead.
Can I go ahead?
No, you
can’t
park here.

Can I park here?

If I had money, I
wouldn’t
buy a Mercedes.
If you had money, would you buy a Mercedes?

Yes, you
may
cross because the light is green.

May I cross the street now?

You don’t
have to
stop, but

Must I stop?

You
can
turn left.
Can I turn?

For advanced learners
Perfect
auxiliary
no inflections
bare infinitive
negative particle
precedes subject in questions
Simple
Progressive
Passive Voice
aspect and voice
Argh, I
can't do
this!
Could
you
help
me?

Sure, I
can help
you.
Those are dangerous tools, you
shouldn't be playing
with them.In fact,
should
you
be
even
touching
them?

Actually, I
should be doing
homework.I'm just dawdling here.
This is impossible. It
can't be done
!

Can
it
be modified
?

Yes, I guess it
could be altered
.
Would
she
have liked
it?

She
would have liked
it if she had come, but she's so stubborn she
wouldn't have admitted
it.
Marked forms
you
should
slow down because you
might
see an animal.
You
should
slow down and stop.
you
should
slow down because a car
might
come.
I
would
buy a Ferrari.
So I
could
drive really fast!
You
can’t
turn right.
You
must
stop.
Problems Students Encounter When Constructing and Using Modals

Structural Issues (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1999, pp. 136-138)
1) Overgeneralize previously learned rules
Ex. present tense verbs w 3rd person singular require an -s. (He cans play tennis.)

2) Modals directly proceed verb without an intervening “to”.
Ex. I can go. V.S. I want to go.

3) Tense Shifting in Reported Speech: What NS say contradicts previously learned rules regarding modals...modals are never tensed. (Modals used to be marked in earlier stages of our language. French, Spanish, and German still operate this way.)

4) Teaching Students to think of modals as “historical present tense modal” (can, will, may, shall) and “historical past tense modals” (could, would, might, should). No 1:1 ratio for present tense.

When to use a modal vs. phrasal modal? Answer: Context Counts!
Formal: Modal
I must attend the lecture. (to your boss)
Informal: Phrasal Modal
He’s gotta go to a meeting.(to your friend)
*many times phrasal modals are contracted and reduced in connected speech. (hasta, gotta, gonna, outta)
More Problems with Meaning
(Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1999, p. 142)
Probability
Must

Will

Should

May be

Could/Might
(That must be Sydney calling.)
(That will be Sydney calling.)
(That should be Syndey calling)
(That may be Sydney...)
(That might be Syndey...)
High Certainty
Low Certainty
Language Specific Problems
(Smith & Swan, 2001, pp. 203-204)
Arabic:
No Modals. Uses preposition followed by subjunctive.
Example:
I can go
becomes
I can go that I go
.
I must go
becomes
from the neccesary that I go
.

Will add regular verb endings to modal and use aux with them.
Example:
Does he can do that?
Yes, he cans do that.
Dialectal Differences (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1999, p. 152)
British English: Must
Example:
You must come over for dinner.
We really must correct this error.


American varieties reserve “have to” for this function.
American English uses “must” for logical inferences.
Example: He must have heard the news.
Would
Will
Should
Might
Shall
Must
Could
May
Can

How Do We Use Modals?
Time Distinctions
Present
- I
can
finally work on this presentation!
*Expresses Ability

Past
- I
shouldn’t
have waited so long.

Future
- This summer I
will
have more free time.
Time Distinction Pairs


Present/Future Past

Can Could
May Might
Shall Should
Will Would
Personal Meaning
Personal (Intrinsic) modals refer to the control of actions or events by a person/agent.


“You
must
take out the trash!”
“I
should
brush my teeth before bed.”
Logical Meaning
Logical (Extrinsic) Modals usually refers to the level of certainty, likelihood, or logical necessity of a state or event.




“You
must
have forgotten your umbrella.”
(Said after your friend walks in soaking wet)
“We
might
be here awhile.”
(Said after seeing a long line ahead.)
Stance Categories
Permission (P) /Ability (L)
-Can, Could, May, Might

Obligation (P) /Necessity (L)
- Must, Should

Volition (P) /Prediction (L)
- Will, Would, Shall

P = Personal (Intrinsic) L = Logical (Extrinsic)
Modal Strength
Logical Possibility (Most Probable)



Ability (Most Direct)



Necessity (Most Direct)


Permission (Most Polite)

Strongest – Must (Will almost definitely happen)
Weakest – Might (Slight chance of happening)
Strongest – Can
Weakest – Could
Strongest – Must
Weakest – Should
Strongest – May “
Can
I have some ice cream?” → “
May
I have some ice cream?”
Weakest – Can
Occurrence of Modals
Often known as helping (aux) verbs because they are used in conjunction with main verbs.

Cannot co-occur with another modal in standard English.
(Some dialects differ ex. I
might could
go.)

Preceding the subject in a question.
(
Can
we please go home now?)

https://prezi.com/cfnwwfndj5aa/
Time Distinctions (Past/Present/Future)
*Not marked for tense

Stance (Possibility/Obligation/Permission)

Semi-Modals
Semi-Modals
Should → “Ought to”
Must → “Have got to”

Still most common in conversation, however even more rare in other registers.

Some semi-modals can follow another modal.

Ex. I might need to wrap things up about now.
References
Biber, D., Conrad, S., & Leech, G. (2002).
Longman
student grammar of spoken and written English.
Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.
Celce-Murcia, M., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1999).
The
grammar book.
Boston, MA: Heinle.
IPA transcriptions. (n.d.) In
Cambridge dictionaries online.
Retrieved from dictionary.cambridge.org
IPA transcriptions. (n.d.) In
Dictionary.com.
Retrieved from dictionary.reference.com
Smith, B., & Swan, M. (2001).
Learner English:

A teacher's
guide to interference and other problems
(2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: University Press.
By Chris Bauserman
Heather Jacobs
Mitzi Passos

Problems with Meaning and Function
1)Epistemic (Logical Probability)
2)Social Interaction (Deontic)

Consider the use of may.

It may rain tomorrow.
You may go home, now.
Chinese (Smith & Swan, 2001, pp. 316- 317)
Does have 1:1 equivalent modal system, but English system indicates a wider range of meaning and feeling. Chinese students tend to avoid using modals.

Example: This is definately not true. VS. This can’t be true. I’m probably not coming. VS. I might not come.

Problem: Lack of modal use leads to the appearance of rudeness. Lack of social graces.
How might the dialogue below be transformed using modals to express more politeness? Have students work in groups to adapt the conversation.

A: Hey, you! Open the door!
B: It’s locked. Want me to go get the key?
A: Yeah. Get it fast.
Sample exercise to help students practice modals of politeness:
Full transcript