In my textbook I have this list of irregular verbs:

 Infinitive  Present Simple  Past Simple    Past Participle
     go          go             went            gone
     do          do             did             done
     be          is             was             been
     be          am             was             been
     be          are            were            been
     have        have           had             had
     will        will           would           would

As can be seen from the table, the present-simple forms of verbs coincide with their infinitives, except in case with the verb "be".

Thus, the infinitive of the present-simple "do" is also "do", and the infinitive of the present-simple "will" is also "will".

I wonder what form of "will" exactly we are dealing with in the following sentence:

These days they will not allow us to walk into that room.

Why? (Please, explain the logic in your answer)


4 Answers 4


Modal auxiliary verb will has only two forms (setting aside the reduced and negative forms):

  1. the present tense form, will

    A meeting will be held next Tuesday at 3 p.m.

  2. the preterit form, would

    They said they would meet us at 10.30 at the station.

However, will can also be classified as a lexical verb:

  • Not for gain or glory, not for riches or immortality, but because my God wills it and that makes it right.
  • As long as I was staring at him he never dared to move, and I could “will” him to do almost anything I wanted by thinking hard that he should do it.
  • From another angle, however, it is possible to argue that his premature death was willed by the state.

The sentences above exemplify the third person singular present tense form, the plain present tense form, and the past participle form, in that order, all of which the modal auxiliary lacks.

All things considered, your will form belongs to either the modal auxiliary, or the lexical verb; that is, it's either a present tense form, or a plain present tense form (because the modal auxiliary lacks the distinction, it has no such thing as a plain present tense form, just a single present tense form, while the lexical verb has both the plain present tense form (will) and the third person singular present tense form (wills)). What's left to determine is whether will is a modal auxiliary or a lexical verb in your sentence:

These days they will not allow us to walk into that room.

There are three salient characteristics which can help us classify it:

  1. Primary verb negation, as opposed to non-verbal negation (They went not to Paris but to Berlin) and non-imperative secondary negation (He promised not to help them), is a distinctive property of auxiliary verbs:

    These days they will not allow us to walk into that room.

    Note that such negation can be marked inflectionally with a negative form (again, a distinctive property of auxiliary verbs):

    These days they won't allow us to walk into that room.

  2. Only bare infinitival complementation, as opposed to a to-infinitival complement (I want to eat dinner), and as opposed to verbs that in addition to an infinitival complement take, e.g., an NP before the plain form (They made us do it – here, us is the NP, and do is the plain form), is a distinctive modal auxiliary characteristic:

    These days they will not allow us to walk into that room.

  3. No person–subject agreement in the present tense. If we were to alter the sentence slightly, changing the subject to he, we'd get the following:

    These days he will not allow us to walk into that room.

    Now, notice that the form in bold is no different than the one in the original sentence:

    These days they will not allow us to walk into that room.

    If this will were a lexical verb, it would have the third person singular present tense form wills in the first sentence with he as subject (as in Not for gain or glory, not for riches or immortality, but because my God wills it and that makes it right.).

Therefore, in the original sentence, will is the present tense form.

I have noticed that you're interested in how you would know whether a verb has the so-called "infinitive" form.

First of all, the authors of CGEL, the modern reference grammar mentioned below, propose a unified term, the plain form, dispensing with seemingly separate terms which in reality describe completely identical forms in the following constructions:

  • imperative: Be on your guard,
  • subjunctive: It is essential [that she be on her guard], and
  • infinitival: It is important [to be always on your guard]

In other words, a single verb-form is used in Present-day English in these three constructions as there's "never any morphological difference between the form[s] a verb has [in them]".

Given that the three constructions [mentioned above] always select identical verb-forms, it is inappropriate to take imperative, subjunctive, and infinitival as inflectional categories. That, however, is what traditional grammar does, again retaining distinctions that were valid at an earlier stage of the language but have since been lost: they have no place in the inflectional system of Present-day English.

So, now that we've gotten rid of the misleading and unnecessary term infinitive, we can begin to talk about whether a verb has the so-called plain form.

This is fairly easy to see because what we can do is try to force the verb into one of the above constructions, where its plain form would be required, and see how it behaves. If it fits (i.e., if the resulting sentence is grammatical), we can say it has that form.

I'll borrow the examples CGEL already provides for the modal auxiliary can:

  • UNGRAMMATICALI'd like to will swim.
  • UNGRAMMATICALI can will swim soon.
  • UNGRAMMATICALWill swim by June! (this is a directive to someone, not a case of ellipsis of I)

Constructions above require the plain form (the to-infinitival, bare infinitival, and imperative constructions respectively). Because they're all ungrammatical, we can conclude that the modal auxiliary will does not have the plain form.

For further information see The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston, Pullum, et al. (2002).

  • Are you sure you said exactly what you wanted in the very last sentence of your answer? I mean this one: "Therefore, in the original sentence, will is the present tense form."
    – brilliant
    Sep 8, 2018 at 17:32
  • 1
    I think your answer is over the top for this level.
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2018 at 17:35
  • @brilliant Yes. I've shown that we're talking about a modal auxiliary verb here (as opposed to a lexical one), and that verb has two forms: the present tense (will) one and the preterit (would) one. And therefore it has to be the first one.
    – user3395
    Sep 8, 2018 at 20:05
  • It is present tense in name only. Modal auxiliaries have two parts: the modal/auxiliary plus the main verb. I will go tomorrow is not I'm going now or today.
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2018 at 20:56

The verb "do" can be a main verb or an auxiliary verb in English. When it's a main verb, it can have both the infinitive and the past participle. We can make an infinitive by placing a "to" before this verb, So the infinitive of "do" (as a main verb) is "to do".

"Do" (like when it's used as a modal in the sentences you are thinking about) and "will" are modal verbs, so they are not supposed to have infinitive or past participle.

An infinitive will almost always begin with to. However, there are some exceptions when it follows verbs like let, help, feel, make, see.

The pattern will be like this: special verb + object + bare infinitive

I felt the ground shake once.


Will in this sentence is a modal. It modifies the meaning of another verb. In your example, it's part of "will allow". It's in the same category as words like should, could, ought, must, can, would, and some others.

Will can also be a standalone normal verb, and you can even use modal will with it, though it would be rare (will as a standalone verb isn't too common unless talking about mental phenomenons or magic):

The magician willed the flower into existence.

The magician will will the flower into existence for 10 gold pieces. (Rare to read/hear but valid and possible).

Past tense of will when it's a normal verb (not a modal) is willed, not would.

  • So, what's your final answer to my question? What form of the modal verb "will" do I have in my sentence, infinitive or present-tense?
    – brilliant
    Sep 8, 2018 at 17:30
  • That's what it's called, a modal verb. It's neither infinitive nor present tense.
    – LawrenceC
    Sep 8, 2018 at 18:24

Modals are:

The modal verbs are:

can/could may/might shall/should will/would must

We use modal verbs to show if we believe something is certain, probable or possible (or not). We also use modals to do things like talking about ability, asking permission making requests and offers, and so on.

British Council definition of a modal verbs

They are not categorized alongside irregular verbs. They have their own logic. They are used alongside another main verb: should go, mustn't go, might be, etc.

These days they will not allow us to walk into that room.

That sentence means: We are not permitted to walk into that room. Also, please note the main verb is allow. Will is the modal form, yes. But will is also an auxiliary verb and often shows intention about the future. And in a sense, it means as of "these days". From this time forward. In that sense, it is a future idea.

They will not allow us to enter that room [in the future] even though they did yesterday.

Please note: this explanation is not for the verb to will someone to do something,which is a regular verb:will/willed/willed.

  • So, what form of the modal verb "will" do I have in my sentence, present-tense one or infinitive?
    – brilliant
    Sep 8, 2018 at 18:10
  • Neither. The verb is: "will allow" where will is the modal accompanied by allow to express a future idea as of: these days. The idea is future overall. The modal verb will allow [modal plus main verb] is grammatically defined as the present tense.But it expresses a future idea. Modals don't have infinitives.
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2018 at 18:12
  • I am a bit puzzled by this comment of yours: in the very beginning of it you are saying "neither" meaning that 'will' in my sentence is neither in the present-tense form nor in infinitive, but in the very end you are saying that "will" is in the present tense!
    – brilliant
    Sep 8, 2018 at 18:17
  • I'm sorry. I'm done here. I cannot argue with someone when the premise of the question is all wrong. Grammarians classify the modal "will" as present but the ideas expressed refer to the future. For the last time: modals do not have infinitives. They are a separate category.
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2018 at 18:22
  • @Lamby: "I cannot argue with someone when the premise of the question is all wrong" - It's okay. Of course, if you don't have enough valid arguments, you don't have to continue "to argue".
    – brilliant
    Sep 8, 2018 at 18:27

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