Modals in English Grammar | Part - 1

Modals in English Grammar | Part - 1

Explain different types of Auxiliaries
Use modals like–
-Used to
-Ought to
Read the following sentences and observe the verbs carefully.
1. I talked to my friend in English.
2. I was talking to my friend about you.
3. We water the plants every day.
4. We have watered the plants.

In the above sentences, the verbs talked, talking, water and watered are the Main Verbs or Lexical Verbs. Main Verbs can stand alone, or they can be used with a helping verb.
Each main verb has five forms: the simple form (present tense), the s-form (present tense), the past tense form, the past participle tense form, and the present participle tense form.
For Example : The five forms of the main verb are-go, goes, went, gone and going.
A Main Verb is any verb in a sentence that expresses action or the state of being of the subject in that sentence and it always
carries a real meaning.

In the above sentences, the words ‘was’ and ‘have’ are also verbs, but these verbs are the Helping Verbs because they help the Main Verbs. Helping Verbs are called Auxiliaries. They are twelve in number: be, do, have, can, may, shall, will, must, ought, used(to), need, dare. 

An Auxiliary is a ‘Helping Verb’. It helps the main verb to form tenses, voices or moods by being placed before them. It also helps in forming Interrogative or Negative Sentences.
Read the following sentence:
I must have been thinking of something else.
In the above sentence, ‘must’, ‘have’ and ‘been’ are Auxiliaries; ‘thinking’ is the Main Verb.

Types of Auxiliaries (Helping Verbs)
There are two types of Auxiliaries:
1. Primary Auxiliaries
2. Modal Auxiliaries

Primary Auxiliaries
There are three Primary Auxiliaries: be, do and have. They change their forms according to the Person or Number of the Subject.
Primary Auxiliary: Be- is, am, are, was, were, been, being
Primary Auxiliary: Do- do, does, did
Primary Auxiliary: Have- have, has, had
Primary Auxiliaries also known as primary verbs can function as either main verbs or auxiliary verbs.

(i) Primary Auxiliaries as Main Verbs: The primary verbs in the bold function as main verbs because each of them can stand alone and also carry a meaning.
The jug is on the table.
have a big house.
They do their work honestly.
He had a problem.
She has a car.
had two balls.
The boys were busy.
am a teacher.

(ii) Primary Auxiliaries as Helping Verbs: The primary verbs in the bold function as auxiliary verbs because each of them are helping a main verb. They can neither stand alone nor do they carry any lexical meaning. They carry grammatical meaning only.
She is playing a match.
am not writing a letter.
did not hit him.
An apple was eaten by Riya.
Are the boys being punished by the teacher?
Has this picture been painted by you?
Modal Auxiliaries
Read the following sentences carefully :
(i) He can drive a car. (‘can’ shows ability)
(ii) The rich should help the poor. (‘should’ shows moral obligation)
(iii) It may rain today. (‘may’ shows possibility)
In the above sentences, ‘drive’, ‘help’ and ‘rain’ are Main Verbs whereas ‘Can’ ‘Should’ and ‘May’ are Helping Verbs that denote particular moods, expressions or conceptions of the mind. Here ‘can’ ‘should’ and ‘may’ express ‘ability’, ‘moral obligation’ and ‘possibility’ respectively. Since these auxiliaries denote some particular moods or expressions, they are called Modal Auxiliaries.

A Modal Auxiliary is a special auxiliary which is used to denote a
particular mood or expression of the subject.
Some Important Rules about Modal Auxiliaries :
1. Modals can never stand alone. They are always used to help a main verb.
For Example : I must leave soon. (Main verb is ‘leave’ and it is helped by the auxiliary verb, ‘must’)
He can drive a car. (Main verb is ‘drive’ and it is helped by the auxiliary verb, ‘can’.)
2. Modals can’t be used as main verbs except in a few cases.
For Example : I will you. (‘Will’ alone does not carry any lexical meaning.
Therefore, this sentence is meaningless.)
I will invite you. (In this sentence, ‘invite’ is the main verb,
here and it is helped by the auxiliary verb, ‘will’. The
sentence, so formed, is meaningful.)
3. Modals don’t have infinitive, present participle or past participle forms. For example, we never use ‘to should, ‘musting’ or ‘canned’.
4. Modals are always followed by the base form (root form or the first form) of a main verb.
For Example : They must attend their classes.
I can solve this sum.
5. Modals can’t be used in all the verb tenses.
For Example : In some tenses, we use, ‘be able to’ instead of ‘can’ to express ability.
(a) I will can do that. (incorrect)
I will be able to do that. (Correct)
(b) I have canned do that. (Incorrect)
(c) I have been able to do that. (correct)
6. When a Modal is followed by ‘be’ + Present Participle form of the verb, this indicates that one is talking about the present or the future.
For Example : He may be watching a movie.
The play will be starting soon.
7. When a Modal is followed by have + Past Participle, this indicates that one is talking about the Past.
For Example : You must have informed us.
She may have already left.
8. In Passive sentences, the pattern is:
Modal + be + Past Participle Form
Modal + have been + Past Participle Form
For Example : His statement will be published soon.
Such changes may have been justified.
9. Modals do not inflect. They do not have any ‘-s’ form, ‘-ing’ form or ‘-ed’ form.
10. Modals do not take any primary auxiliary to form negative sentences. 
To form negative sentences, the article ‘not’ is added after the modal.
For Example : He should not talk rudely.
11. Questions are formed by placing the modal before the Subject. In
case of ought to, ‘ought’ is placed before the subject and ‘to’ after it.
For Example : Would you please lend me your book?
Ought we to support them?
12. Modals are used in Question Tags:
For Example : She can’t drive a car, can she?
He could not solve the sum, could he?
13. There are 13 Modal Auxiliaries: will, would, shall, should, can, could,
may, might, used to, ought to, must, dare and need.
14. ‘Need’ and ‘Dare’ can also be used as main verbs.



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