Tag Archives: modal auxiliary

#EngQuiz: ‘Can’ vs ‘be able to’

Hi, fellas! In this post, we’re doing an #EngQuiz on the usage of “can” vs “be able to” that we have discussed before. Choose the correct word or phrase to fill these sentences!

1. She has confirmed that she _____ attend the meeting tomorrow.
a. can
b. is able to
c. both are correct
Correct! We can use either “can” or “be able to” to talk about the ability to do something on a specific occasion in the future.
2. He said he stayed up late last night but he _____ write anything.
a. can’t
b. couldn’t
Correct! We can use the past form of either “can” or “be able to” in negative statements about something in the past.
 c. isn’t able to
d. weren’t able to
3. I _____ juggle up to four balls at a time.
a. can
b. am able to
c. both are correct
Correct! We can use either “can” or “be able to” in the present tense to talk about an ability to do things.
4. _____ win one of the doorprize back then?
a. Can you
b. Could you
c. Are you able to
d. Were you able to
Correct! We only use “was/were able to” to talk about something we succeeded in doing on a specific time in the past.
5. If the device is too hot, it _____ damage the battery.
a. can
Correct! We only use “can” or “could” in the present tense to talk about possibilities.
b. is able to
Nope!
c. both are correct
Nay!
6. I _____ crawl through that little gap between the bushes when I was a kid.
a. can
b. can’t
c. could
Correct! We can use either “could” or “was/were able to” to talk about an ability that someone doesn’t have anymore.
d. were able to

Compiled and written by @fafafin for @EnglishTips4U on Thursday, January 19, 2017

 

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#EngClass: Modal verb – May

In this particular session/post, we’ll talk about “may”. It is one of many modal verbs which modify main verbs. Modal verbs are often used to express an opinion or attitude about a possible fact or to control a possible action.

Modal verbs either show:

  • a decision on how certain something is (a speculation or prediction about a fact, talk about degrees of certainty, possibility, likelihood)
  • the desire to control an action (give or refuse permission, talk about obligation and necessity)

When to use “may”?

“May” is most commonly used to express possibility. Other than that, “may” is also used for the following purposes:

slide9

  1. To express future possibility.
    • Example:
      • She is very smart. I think she may get the scholarship.
  2. To give permission.
    • Example:
      • You may go out now that your homework is done.(Present)
      • You may go out after your homework is done. (Future)
  3. To ask for permission.
    • Example:
      • May I stay overnight?
  4. To talk about typical occurrences.
    • Example:
      • You may find it difficult if you drink coffee in the evening.
  5. To speculate about past actions. 
    • Example:
      • She is late. I think she may have overslept.
  6. To express wishes.
    • Example:
      • May all your wishes come true.

How to use “may”?

slide10

  • In an interrogative sentence, “may” is placed up front and followed by subject and verb.
  • To form a negative sentence, “not” is placed after the word “may”.
  • In a sentence, “may” is placed after subject and before verb.
  1. To express future possibility.
    • Example:
      •  (+) She is very smart. I think she may get the scholarship.
      • (-) I think she may not get the scholarship.
  2. To give permission.
    • Example:
      • (+) You may go out now that your homework is done.(Present)
      • (-) You may not go out. Your homework is not done.
    • Example:
      • (+) You may go out after your homework is done. (Future)
      • (-) You may not go out even after your homework is done.
  3. To ask for permission.
    • Example:
      • (?) May I stay overnight?
  4. To talk about typical occurrences.
    • Example:
      • (+) You may find it difficult to sleep if you drink coffee in the evening.
      • (-) You may not find it difficult to sleep if you drink milk.
  5. To speculate about past actions.
    • Example:
      • (+) She is late. I think she may have overslept.
      • (-) She arrived looking tired. I think she may not have overslept.

Speculating past action

slide17

“May” can also be used to form a past tense sentence to express past possibility.

  • To express past possibility, “may” is followed by “have” and past participle (verb3).
    • Example:
      • She may have been waiting in the rain. She was feverish.
  • To form a negative sentence when talking about past possibility, “not” is placed right after “may”.
    • Example:
      • She may not have been waiting in the rain. Her clothes were dry.

Giving permission in the past

slide20

To express giving permission in the past, we do not use “may”. Instead, we use “be allowed to“. Both are synonymous, except “be allowed to” can be used to give permission in the present, past and future.

  • When we talk about giving permission in the past, “be allowed to” is positioned after subject and followed by an infinitive verb. And since we’re talking a past event, we use “was” or “were”.
    • Example:
      • He was allowed to go on a holiday.
  • To form a negative sentence when talking about giving permission in the past, “not” is slipped in right after “was/were”.
    • Example:
      • He was not allowed to go on a holiday.
  • To form an interrogative sentence when talking about giving permission in the past, “was/were” is placed up front followed by the subject, “allowed to” and the infinitive verb.
    • Example:
      • Was he allowed to go on a holiday?

Feel free to ask if you have any question in relation to “may”. Simply drop a comment down below or contact us on Twitter.

Compiled and written by @miss_qiak for @EnglishTips4U on Wednesday, January 18, 2017


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#EngClass: Modal Verbs

In today’s discussion on modal verbs, we’ll talk about the following points:

  • What are modal verbs?
  • How are modal verbs different from normal verbs?
  • What modal verbs are there in English?
  • What do modal verbs express?
  • How to use modal verbs?

What are modal verbs?

Modal verbs are special verbs which behave very irregularly in English. They behave very differently from normal verbs. Modal verbs modify main verbs which are positioned next to them.

How are modal verbs different from normal verbs?

Verb is the part of speech that expresses existence, action or occurrence. And the following are the differences that modal verbs have from normal verbs:

  1. Modal verbs do not take “-s” in the third person.
    • Example:
      She can sing very well.
      He should take a seat.
  2. We use “not” to make modal verbs negative, even in Simple Present and Simple Past.
    • Example:
      She might not call you tonight.
      We should not be here.
  3. Modal verbs are followed directly by another verb.
    • Example:
      He must finish his work soon.
      She will be home at 7 pm.
  4. They make questions by inversion.
    • Example:
      Affirmative: She can go…
      Interrogative: Can she go… ?
  5. Many modal verbs cannot be used in the past tenses or the future tenses.
    • Example:
      Wrong: He will can go with us.
      Wrong: She musted study very hard.

What do modal verbs express?

We use modal verbs to express various things, such as:

  1. We use “can” and “could” to talk about a skill or ability.
    • Example:
      He can build a house.
  2. We use “can”, “could” and “might” to talk about possibility and impossibility.
    • Example:
      We might get there at 9.30.
  3. We use “must”, “could”, “should” and “ought to” to say when something is necessary or unnecessary, whether it is an obligation.
    • Example:
      They must not be late to school.
  4. We use “could”, “should” and “ought to” to give advice.
    • Example:
      She should speak louder.
  5. We use “can”, “could” and “may” to ask for and give permission. We use them to say something is not allowed.
    • Example:
      He may not leave the house tonight.
  6. We use “will” and “would” to talk about habits or things we usually do or did in the past.
    • Example:
      You will always be in my heart.

What modal verbs are there in English?

Here’s a list of them:

Can                    Could                 Must

Should              May                    Might

Will                   Would                Shall

Ought to

Last but but not least,…

How do we use modal verbs?

  • Modal verb is followed directly by the infinitive of another verb.

slide16

  • To form a negative statement, “not” is added right after modal verb, right before the main verb.

slide17

  • We form an interrogative statement by inversion. Reverse the word structure by inverting the subject and the verb.

modal-verbs

Sya: However, some also say that “need” is also often considered as modal.

Nowadays, this is not a common practice. Some would call “need” a semi-modal. Some other would think it’s outdated and formal.

“Need”, as a semi-modal, is mostly used in the negative form. It is to say that there is no obligation or necessity to do something. Example:

  • She need not thank me.

Notice how “need” does not take -s, and the verb which follows is a bare infinitive.

That’s a wrap for today’s discussion on “modal verbs”. In-depth discussions on each and every modals will be shared in the coming weeks.

Also check out past discussions on “modal verbs”, titles are listed below.

Compiled and written by @miss_qiak for @EnglishTips4U on Wednesday, January 11, 2017


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#EngTrivia: “Can” vs “Be Able to”

In this post, we will talk about the use of “can” and “be able to”. “Can” and “be able to” are often interchangeable, but there are some occasions where only one of them is correct.

Both “can” and “be able to” is used:

1. In the present tense to talk about an ability to do things. In this case, “can” is more common, while “be able to” sounds more formal and less natural.

  • Example:
    • “I can play guitar.” ✔
    • “I am able to play guitar.” ✔
  1. To talk about the ability to do something on a specific occasion in the future.
  • Example:
    • “I can do the interview tomorrow.” ✔
    • “I am able to do the interview tomorrow.” ✔
    • “When I’m done writing this essay, we can hang out.” ✔
    • “When I’m done writing this essay, we will be able to hang out.” ✔

3. To talk about an ability that someone doesn’t have anymore.

  • Example:
    • “I could stay up until 3 AM when I was a student.” ✔
    • “I was able to stay up until 3 AM when I was a student.”✔

 

We only use “can” or “could” in the present tense to talk about possibilities.

  • Example:
    • “With that much preparation, I think they can win the academic bowl.” ✔
    • “With that much preparation, I think they are able to win the academic bowl.” ✖

 

We only use “was/were able to” to talk about something we succeeded in doing on a specific time in the past.

  • Example:
    • “I was able to sleep last night.” ✔
    • “I could sleep last night.” ✖

 

However, it is okay to use either “could not” or “was/were not able to” in negative statements about something the past.

  • Example:
    • “I couldn’t ride a bike when I was a teenager.” ✔
    • “I wasn’t able to ride a bike when I was a teenager.”✔
    • “We couldn’t get tickets to the premiere yesterday.” ✔
    • “We weren’t able to get tickets to the premiere yesterday.” ✔

 

By the way, you can read more about the usage of “can” vs. “could” as well as other modal auxiliary verbs in this article. Feel free to drop a comment if you have any question.

 

Compiled and written by @Fafafin for @EnglishTips4U on Thursday, December 29, 2016

 

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