Questions tagged [modal-verbs]

Modal auxiliary verbs are a special type of auxiliary verb, used mainly to express ability, likelihood, permission, and obligation. These include 'will', 'would', 'can', 'could', 'shall', 'should', 'may', 'might', 'must', 'ought', 'need', and 'dare'. Please do not use this tag for the non-modal auxiliaries 'be', 'have', or 'do'.

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You can get very nasty skin diseases from bathing in dirty water

You can get very nasty skin diseases from bathing in dirty water. What does can mean in the sentence above? My suggestions: Be able to: You are able to get the skin disease. possibility: There is a ...
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smoking can cause cancer

Does "can" mean possibility in these two sentences? You can get stamps from the local newsagents. Perhaps you'll get stamps from the local newsagents. Perhaps not. Smoking can cause ...
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These animals can be dangerous

What does "can" mean in this sentence? These animals can be dangerous. Some people say it indicates possibility, i.e., "I don't know if these animals are dangerous. They are possibly/...
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What is the meaning of 'd?

Man: Now Carly, that's my older daughter, has just had her seventh birthday, so presumably she['d] be in a different group? Could anybody tell me the meaning of 'd and the usage of it?
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Making a prediction with must and can't

Can we make a prediction about the future using "can't" and "must"? For example, "we can't be late, we've got now plenty of time to get there". " She must be really ...
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would be + V-ing as a question

This question is from the Harry Potter movie, when Harry received an invitation to join Hogwarts for the very first time. When Vernon Dursley (the Fat Muggle guy who adopted Harry) took the letter, ...
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Can we pronounce “can” as /kən/ at the beginning of a sentence?

I know that “can” can be reduced to /kən/ unless it has to be stressed. For example in a sentence like “I believe I can fly” we can say /kən/ instead of /kæn/. My question is, can we do the same thing ...
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Can we use "must" -instead of must have+past participle- for "deduction about the past", just like we can use it for "deduction about the present?"

The following sentence is from the BBC about the condition of classrooms in 1950s. https://youtu.be/iQAzSVQBU7I?t=89 (see between 1:32-1:40) The presenter uses the sentence below: "I noticed that ...
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Is it possible to use past tense IF with hypothetical with present result?

I am talking to my buddy about going somewhere and I am imagining going if his sister went. I would go if your sister went. I would go if she would go. If that were the case, then you could count me ...
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‘Have some more cake.’ ‘Oh, I couldn’t, thank you.’

‘Have some more cake.’ ‘Oh, I couldn’t, thank you.’ The reply 'Oh, I couldn't, thank you.' deserves to be analyzed because the form of modal verb 'can' changed into the past tense 'could'+not. Why '...
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Do the word "needed" need a modal in this paragraph?

What is the meaning of the last sentence of the following paragraph? The preliminary results point to a shift, but more turmoil lies ahead. They portend a sharply polarized parliament divided between ...
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Meaning of "you should have to..."

This is an extract from an online book: Now that you have Git on your system, you’ll want to do a few things to customize your Git environment. You should have to do these things only once on any ...
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might or may; would or will

You might say we do business a little differently, but we wouldn't have it any other way. You may say we do business a little differently, but we won't have it any other way. Unilever use #1 in its ...
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could have been vs. could be

In a grammar book, I read We use could (not can) plus the perfect when we speculate about the possibility of an earlier event. An example from the same book: With better communication, the battle ...
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Omitting a repeated verb for and advertising message

In the following sentence the verb "have" is omitted on purpose to make the sentence sound more persuading. Could it be correct for an advertising message? You have challenges, we solutions....
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verb to be, infinitive passive

I've taken these sentences from a document I was reading, my question is why the writer in the first sentence has not used a verb to be "is" before the sentence to be but in the second ...
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1 answer
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When asking a third person's willingness or asking a third person to do sth - is "would" more polite?

A friend and I have decided to go on a picnic this weekend. Can I use "would" to ask about a third person's willingness? Does "would" sound more polite than "will"? ...
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"Would" when used to express polite, uncertain, or tentative - Does it trigger back-shift (past tense) in reported speech?

A conditional sentence makes the reported part past tense and back-shifted. Example 1: If I were you, I would say that I didn't want to join his team. "Would" can be used to make the ...
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1 vote
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Did not or Would not

I have a question please. In the next sentence: I wish John lived close. So we didn't have to walk this far. So we wouln't have to walk this far. So we wouldn't walked this far. Which one is correct?...
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Unreal past with the modal verb 'could'

Can I use the modal verb 'could' in the if-clause? For example: If he could have studied last year, he could have been a university student. The first 'could' represents the ability and the second ...
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2 answers
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Which sentence would you use in the given context?

I didn't call him because he could be busy. I didn't call him because he could've been busy. To mean "I didn't call him, thinking he could be busy," which sentence would you use? Also, what ...
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Be careful climbing that tree. You (can / could) fall

Be careful climbing that tree. You (can / could) fall. The answer is "could". I would choose "could" if I had to, but I can't seem to explain why "can" doesn't work here....
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"Might/must be +verb+ing" He might/must be watching "TV"

"must/might be + verb + ing" Could "must/might be +verb +ing" be used in a future sense just like "He will be watching TV" as in future/tomorrow. If not then what present ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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How to distinguish MAY from MIGHT?

I need to define what a given functional object is, what it looks like, what it is made of. Should I say: It MAY be any kind of box, a metal box like a shoe box, or a cardboard box like a cookie box. ...
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perfect form after a modal verb

I have a question concerning the sentence below; it describes a future expectation. Is the perfect form the only acceptable option, given the phrase 'by the end of...'? Thanks. By the end of the ...
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"Would" for Habitual Actions

I would like to ask if the first "would" in this sentence is correct: "Every time she would come to our house, she would talk to Mom about that subject."
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He may/might/could practice playing the guitar regularly from now on. - Does it express uncertainty?

I think someone will do something, but I am not sure. Can I use may/might/could to express the uncertainty? Example 1. He wants to learn how to play the guitar. He may/might/could practice playing ...
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1 answer
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The professor has gone to another country. My classmates couldn't meet him. - "couldn't" future impossibility

Questions: (1) Can "couldn't be used to say something is impossible in the present or future? (2) Are Examples 1 and 3 correct? (3) Do Examples 1 and 3 sound softer or less direct than Examples 2 ...
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What's the difference between 'How somebody can...'? and 'How can somebody...'?

For example: How can she get to the bank. or How she can get to the bank What's the difference? Which one is correct?
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The usage of adv + can

Some People say can only have same meaning as only can, and some not. So I want to make it clear. I only can get it. Does the sentence mean: I am the the only one who can get it? So, how do I ...
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"You might/should have told me"

A: I'm sorry I didn't attend the meeting yesterday. B: You _______ have told me you weren't coming for the meeting. a. might b. should c. both a and b
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1 answer
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"How would you know" vs "How do you know"

I am reading a book but I don't understand the "would" instead of "do" in these sentences: A: Hey! what are you doing here? there's a meet going on. B: Really? How would you know? ...
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2 answers
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He could not have been able to drive

This exercise is from Raymond Murphy's English Grammar in Use. The exercise is to practise using "could have done" and "couldn't have done" (not "could do"!). Read this ...
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Could not have been able instead of could

This exercise is from Raymond Murphy's English Grammar in Use. The exercise is to practise using "could have done" and "couldn't have done" (not "could do"!). Read this ...
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Is it grammatically correct to use 'Haven't had to '?

"We haven't had to invoke any supposed advantages of Fertile Crescent people themselves". In this sentence, the modal 'have to' is followed by the helping verb 'have not'. Can you use a ...
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Is responding to requests with a past modal verb considered impolite?

Would you open the door? (Polite request) 1a. Yes, I would.(Is this sentence considered impolite because using "would" subtly hints it or gives a feeling that the responder is being cheeky?...
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2 answers
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Does "must" in this sentence refer to "a deduction" or "a necessity"? "She must live close to where she works because she walks to work."

She must live close to where she works because she walks to work. This sentence is given as an example of "must" being used for deduction in the present. However, when I read the sentence, I ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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British council says "We use the past continuous for something that happened again and again." Is this not true for "used to do"?

British council says "We use the past continuous for something that happened again and again. And they put some sentences below: I was practising every day, three times a day. They were meeting ...
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how does the sentence must have v3 work?

Frankly, I am someone who likes to put everything in a language into an analysis. I don't want to memorize it directly. As you know, must have +v3 is used for statements that were in the past and ...
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1 vote
3 answers
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what is this meaning of "could"?

A: Your French is horrible. B: Oh really? Then, seems like I've been deceiving myself into thinking that I could speak it when I actually couldn't. This "could" is the result of the ...
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Is there any difference between "what time should I expect your call" and "what time should I be expecting your call"?

Is there any difference between what time should I expect your call and what time should I be expecting your call? For example: Person A: I'll call you tomorrow and we'll talk about the trip. Person ...
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1 answer
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What should I have done?

In the following conversation, what does the boldface sentence mean? Does it imply something like this: I did something, but it didn't work out. A: I was in a meeting at work when my girlfriend texted ...
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1 answer
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I could buy a new car [closed]

In the following sentence, what does "could" mean? If I got $40,000, I could buy a new car. Actually, I'm broke. Does it mean possibility or ability?
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1 vote
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Can it happen to be an unconventional usage of "would+Perfect Infinitive"?

Of course, there has been a raft of questions and answers about how to use the construction would+Perfect Infinitive but one I have stumbled across on the Internet plunged me into bewilderment. I have ...
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If 'Could i go?' is the kind way , What would be the past of 'Can i go'?

I was reading this question & answer, he said that ‘Could I go?’ is the kind way. Then I've got the doubts that, how do I ask someone the past of the ‘Can I go?’? Like Am I allowed go there ...
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2 answers
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Can we split the (will + linking verb) in a passive form and put an adverb between them?

I was writing this on my Facebook post: ... it will certainly be accepted A friend of mine corrected me it should have been written like this: ... it certainly will be accepted However, I don't ...
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None of his sons could land a job in the government service

None of his sons could land a job in the government service. (Here we're talking only about the past) None of his sons was/were able to land a job in the government service. Do (1) and (2) mean ...
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The modal verb 'will' in reporting

M. Hewings in his book Advanced Grammar In Use explains that the modal verb will in the original statement, suggestion, etc. can be either changed into would or unchanged i.e. still will when it's ...
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I "wouldn't / won't" recommend it to others. - is the "would" the hypothetical use?

What is the difference between using "wouldn't" and "won't" in Example 1? Does "wouldn't" sound softer and maybe more indefinite? Is it related to the hypothetical use of ...
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1 vote
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modal verbs in indirect speech

He thought, 'Ben might be at school now.' Now I want to change this sentence into an indirect form. Which of the following is correct? He thought that Ben might be at school at that time. He thought ...
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