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Grammar and Idioms For Young People

Modal Verbs

The modal verbs are may, might, must, ought to, should, will, would, can and could. Modal verbs give information about things that are necessary or possible. We study some of these words under the conditional words. "Modal" means "mood" and "condition" means "mode of being" or "existing state," so these words overlap in grammar use. Other verbs that are semi-modal: need, had better, be able to, have got to.

Can and Could, Will and Would, May and Might

Modal Verb
With Simple Present
With Present Perfect
With Present Progressive
it is possible
I can go with you.
(not used)
(not used)
it may be possible
He could buy some new tools.
He could have bought some new tools.
He could be buying new tools or maybe he is at home.
it is certain
I will fly out of town tomorrow.
I will have flown out of town by tomorrow.
I will be flying out of town tomorrow.
it may be certain and it is desired
I would listen to his music if he sent me a CD.
I would have listened to his music if he had sent me a CD.
I would be listening to his music right now if only he had sent me a CD.
it may be possible: formal
He may come with us if he has time.
He may have come if he had time.
He may be coming if he has time.
it may be possible: informal
He might come with us if he has time.
He might havae come if he had time.
He might be coming if he has time.

Semi-Modal Verbs

Semi-Modal Verb
it is necessary
I need to buy new buttons to mend the shirt.
had better
it is necessary
I had better buy new buttons to mend the shirt.
be able to
have the possibility
I'll be able to buy new buttons on Monday.
have got to
is is necessary or essential
I've got to buy new buttons by Monday.

Tip 1: Practice using modal verbs by thinking of an event in the future. Think about things that are certain and possible and also things that may be possible and may be desired. You might think about an upcoming wedding or family gathering. You can also think about future career goals and compare them with what you presently do.

Tip 2: If you do not use some phrases, such as "had better," choose one new phrase and make yourself use it at least 3 times during this week.


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