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MODALS

Modal Auxiliary Verbs

An auxiliary verb allows different verbs to make tenses, passive forms etc. There are two groups – primary auxiliaries and modal auxiliaries.

Modal auxiliaries

The verbs will, could, shall, should, can, may, might, must, ought dare and need are usually called modal auxiliaries.

They are used with different verbs to explicit actions, situations or events that exist only as conceptions of the mind – permissions, possibilities, certainty, ability, wishes, obligations etc.

They may also express simple futurity.

  • I can swim.
  • She will come.
  • I need to move now.
  • Should I name them?
  • She would possibly come.

Modal auxiliaries have three common characteristics.

1. They are in no way used alone. A principal verb is either present or implied.

  • I can fly an aeroplane.
  • He has to behave.
  • Will you move? Yes, I will (move).

2. Modal auxiliaries don’t have any –s in the third person singular.

  • I can swim.
  • She can swim. (NOT She cans …)
  • I might also additionally pass.

3. Modal auxiliaries do not have infinitives (to may, too shall etc.) or participles (maying, sharingshared etc.). You cannot say to shall, to must or may.

Modal Auxiliary Verb
Can

Can is a modal auxiliary verb. It is followed by an infinitive without to. There is no –s in the third person singular.

  • I can swim.
  • She can sing. (NOT She cans …)
  • He can run a mile in four minutes. (NOT He can run…)
  • She can play tennis very well. (NOT She can play tennis…)

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • Can you speak Kannada? (NOT Do you can speak French?)
  • I can’t swim. (NOT I don’t can swim.)
  • You can’t fool him. (NOT You don’t can fool him.)

Uses

Can is used to talk about ability and possibility, to invite for and provide permission, and to make requests and offers.

To talk about the theoretical opportunity

We can use can talk about ‘theoretical’ opportunity – say that conditions and events are possible theoretically.

  • Glass may be blown. (It is theoretically possible to blow glass.)
  • Wars can get away at any time. (It is theoretically possible for wars to break out any time.)
  • Smoking can reason cancer.
  • Noise may be pretty a trouble while you are living in a city.

Note that we do not use can talk about future probability – say that something will manifest in future. We explicit this concept with may or might.

  • It may rain this evening. (NOT It can rain …)
  • There may be a strike next week. (NOT There can be a strike …)
  • I may get a job soon.

Note that might expresses a much less precise opportunity than may. Could is also used in the identical feel.

  • It could rain this evening. (= It might rain this evening.)

To talk about logical possibility

Can is often used in questions and negatives to talk about the logical possibility that something is true.

  • There is the doorbell? Who can it be?

With this meaning can isn’t always feasible in affirmative clauses. Instead, we use could, may or might.

  • Where is Ananya? She could/may/might be in the garden. (NOT She can be in the garden.)

To talk about the ability

We can use can talk about present or general ability – say that we’re able to do something.

  • I can speak 10 languages.
  • She can cook well.
  • Can you knit?
  • If you are not satisfied with this product, you can send it back.

Note that be capable of can regularly be used with comparable meanings.

  • He canassist her. (= He can support her.)
  • They were capable to seize the thief. (= They could catch the thief.)

Cannot (also can’t) suggests inability.

  • I can speak Tamil, but I cannot write it.
  • Most people cannot read traffic signals.
  • I can’t power.

We do not use can talk about future ability. Instead, we use will be able to or other words.

  • Someday scientists will be able to discover a cure for cancer. (NOT Someday scientists will discover a cure for cancer.)

To ask for or give permission

Can is sometimes used to invite for and give permission. Some people, however, think that may is more correct than can.

  • Can I use your vehicle, Sanjay?
  • Can we park over there?
  • You can exit and play after you’ve finished your homework.
  • You can park on either side of the road here.
  • Can I go to the movies, mom?

Note that we can also use could ask for permission. It is a more polite form of can.

  • Could I speak to Mr Manoj, please?
  • Could I have look at your newspaper?

Cannot is used to refuse permission.

  • Can I go to the movies, mom? No, you can’t.

To make requests and offers

Can is used in polite requests and offers of help.

  • Can you turn that music down? I am trying to work.
  • Can you get me a cup of coffee?
  • Can I help you with those bags?

Note that Could is a more polite way of making requests and offers.

  • Could you help me with my homework?
  • Could you lend me some money?

Could | Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Could is a modal auxiliary verb. There is no –s in the third person singular.

It Could is used to indicate ability that existed in the past. It is followed by an infinitive without to.

  • In my younger days, I could run four miles at a stretch.
  • Till last year I could read without glasses.

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • Could I have a word with you?
  • Why couldn’t you attend the meeting yesterday?
  • We found that we couldn’t depend on our guide.

Uses

To talk about past ability in general

Could is often used to say that somebody was able to do something in the past.

  • My father could walk without help when he was 95.
  • She could read when she was 3.
  • When we were children, we could watch TV whenever we wanted to.
  • In my younger days, I could run four miles at a stretch.

Note that could refer to the past only when the context makes the time clear.

Could not (also couldn’t) shows past inability.

  • I could not understand a word, but I kept smiling.
  • She spoke in such a low voice that most of us could not hear her.
  • We found that we couldn’t depend on our guide.

It Could is used to talk about past ability in general. We do not normally use could say that somebody managed to do something on one occasion. But with certain verbs like see, hear, taste, feel, smell, understand, remember etc., could be used for particular occasions as well.

  • Suddenly I could hear a loud noise.
  • I could smell something burning.

As the past equivalent of a can

Could is the past equivalent of can in indirect speech.

  • He said, “I can drive.”
  • He said that he could drive.
  • She said, “I can’t climb up the hill.”
  • She said that she could not climb up the hill.

To make polite requests or offers

Could is often used to make a request or offer sound more polite.

  • Could I have a glass of water, please?
  • Could you help me with these bags?

To express possibility or uncertainty

Could mean would be able to.

  • You could get a better job if you spoke English. (=You would be able to get a better job if you spoke English.)
  • You could do it if you tried hard. (=You would be able to do it…)
  • If only I had some working capital, I could start a new business. (=…I would be able to start a new business.)

Could have + past participle

The structure could have + past participle can be used to criticize people for not doing things. It can also be used to talk about past events that did not happen.

  • I have been waiting since morning – you could have said that you weren’t coming.
  • Why did you drive so carelessly? You could have killed yourself.

Modal Auxiliary Verb May

May is a modal auxiliary verb. There is no –s in the third person singular.

  • She may be here soon. (NOT She mays …)

May is followed by an infinitive without to.

  • You may be right. (NOT You may be right.)
  • He may come.

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • May I come in, please? (NOT Do I may come …)
  • He may not come. (NOT He do not may come.)

May does not have infinitives (to may) or participles (maying, mayed). When necessary, we use other words.

Meaning

May is used to talking about the possibility, and to ask for and give permission.

  • It may rain this afternoon.
  • May I play carroms, mummy?
  • Yes, you may.

Possibility

May is used to talking about the chances of something happening.

  • I think it is going to rain. You may be right.
  • There may be a strike next week.
  • Where is John? He may be out shopping.

May well is used to suggest a strong possibility.

  • I think it is going to rain. You may well be right.

May is not normally used in direct questions about probability.

  • Are they likely to help us? (BUT NOT May they help us?)

But note that may is possible in indirect questions about probability.

  • May we not be making a big mistake?

May + perfect infinitive

The structure may + perfect Infinitive (have + past participle) can be used to say that it is possible that something happened or was true in the past.

  • Anish is very late. She may have missed her train. (= It’s possible that she missed her train.)

May + perfect infinitive can also refer to the present or future.

  • I will try phoning him, but he may have gone out by now.

Permission

May can be used to ask for permission. It is more formal than can and could.

  • May I come in?

May is used to giving permission; may not is used to refuse permission and to forbid.

  • May I come in? Yes, you may.
  • May I have a look at your papers? No, I am afraid you may not.

Must not is also used to forbid. It is stronger than may not.

  • Students must not use the staff car park.

May and might are not normally used to talk about permission which has already been given or refused, about freedom which people already have, or about rules and laws. Instead, we use can, could or be allowed.

  • Can you/Are you allowed to park on both sides of the road here? (More natural than May you allowed …)
  • When we were children, we could watch TV whenever we wanted to. (NOT …we might watch TV …)

May in wishes and hopes

May is used in formal expressions of wishes and hopes. May often comes at the beginning of the sentence.

  • May God bless you!
  • May you both be very happy!
  • May the devil take him!
  • May you prosper in all that you do!

May vs. Can

Both can and may can be used to talk about possibilities. But there is some difference between them. Can is used to talk about theoretical possibility; may is used to talk about the factual possibility.

Compare:

  • The road may be blocked due to the procession. (Factual possibility.)
  • Any road can be blocked. (Theoretical possibility – It is possible to block any road.)
  • There may be a strike next week. (There may be a strike next week.)
  • Strikes can happen at any time. (Strikes can happen any time.)
  • If you drive carelessly, you may have an accident. (Factual possibility)
  • Accidents can happen at any time. (Theoretical possibility)

When we talk about possibility, could often mean the same as may or might.

  • You may/might/could be right.

May not and Cannot

It May not suggests improbability. Cannot suggest impossibility.

Compare:

  • We may not go camping this summer. (= It,s possible that we may not go camping.)
  • We cannot go camping this summer. (= It’s, possible that we can’t go camping this summer.)

Might | Modal Auxiliary Verb

Might is a modal auxiliary verb. It is followed by an infinitive without to. There is no –s in the third person singular.

  • It might rain this evening.

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • We might not be home before evening.

Might do not have infinitives or participles. When necessary, we use other words.

Meaning

Might is used to talking about a possibility, and to ask for and give permission.

Possibility

We often use might say that there is a chance that something is happening, or that there is a possibility of it happening.

  • It might rain this evening.
  • She might come.

May and Might: The difference

Might is the past equivalent of may in indirect speech. But it does not normally have a past meaning. It is used in the same way as may to talk about the present or future. The difference is that might usually refer to situations that are less probable or less definite. It is used when people think that something is possible but not very likely.

  • I may get a job soon. (Perhaps a 50% chance)
  • I might get a job soon. (Perhaps a 30% chance)

Might can mean ‘would perhaps’.

  • Don’t play with knives. You might get hurt. (= Perhaps you would get hurt.)

Might + perfect infinitive

The structure might + perfect infinitive can be used to say that it is possible that something happened or was true in the past.

  • What was that noise? It might have been a cat.

The same structure can be used to say that something was possible but did not happen.

  • You were stupid to try climbing up there. You might have killed yourself.

Permission

Might be used to ask for permission. It is very polite and formal; it is not common and is mostly used in indirect questions.

  • I wonder if I might borrow your car.

Modal Auxiliary Would

Would is a modal auxiliary verb. There are no -s in the third person singular. Would is followed by an infinitive without to.

  • He said he would try his best to help me.
  • I would like to know what my duty is.
  • The doctor said he would visit the patient.

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • Would you like some coffee? (NOT Do you would like …)

Would and Will

Would is a softer, less definite form of will. It is used in polite requests and offers.

  • I would like to meet him.

Would act like the past of will in indirect speech.

  • She said, ‘I will not live here anymore.’
  • She said that she would not live there anymore.

Would: Uses

To make polite offers and requests

Would is often used in polite requests and offers. It is a softer, less definite form of will.

  • Would you mind moving a bit?
  • Would you mind sharing a room?
  • I would like to meet the manager.

Would also be used to express an opinion more politely without being forceful.

  • This is not what we would expect from a professional service.

To talk about past habits

Would be used to talk about past events that happened often or always.

  • He would always bring us nice gifts without telling us why.
  • The old man would recline in a corner and sleep most of the time.
  • After dinner, we would sit in a common room and chat for a while.

Would is often used to suggest that what happens is expected because it is typical, especially of a person’s behaviour.

  • She would always trust the wrong person.
  • ‘Ann rang to say that she was too busy to come.’ ‘She would – she always has an excuse.’

To talk about willingness and determination

Would express willingness or a rather perverse determination.

  • He said he would try his best to help me. (Willingness)
  • He would bet on that horse, though I asked him not to. (Determination)
  • She would have her way.

Wouldn’t show unwillingness.

  • I asked him to move his car, but he said he wouldn’t.

To talk about imaginary situations

Would is sometimes used to refer to a situation that you can imagine happening.

  • I would hate to miss the show.
  • I would go myself but I am too busy.
  • It would have been quite boring to sit through the entire speech.

Would and used to

Both would and used to can refer to repeated actions and events in the past.

  • She would/used to always carry an umbrella.

Note that used to can refer to past states; would cannot.

  • I used to have an old Rolls Royce. (NOT I would have …)

Would rather

Would rather express choice or preference.

  • She would rather die than marry him.
  • They would rather go to jail than pay the fine.

Using Need

Need not + have + past participle

If we say that somebody need not have done something, we mean that he or she did it, but it was not necessary.

  • You need not have woken me up. I don’t have to go to work today.
  • I needn’t have cooked so much food. Nobody was hungry.
  • They need not have come all this way. (= They came all this way, but it was not necessary.)
  • We need not have waited for his approval. (= We waited for his approval, but that was not necessary.)
  • You need not have bought a new car.
  • You need not have paid for that call.

Note that need not have does not mean the same as did not need to. When we say that somebody did not need to do something, we are simply saying that it was not necessary (whether or not it was done).

Compare:

  • I need not have bought it. (=I bought it, but it was not necessary.)
  • I didn’t need to buy it. (= I didn’t need to buy it.)

Need + participle

In British English, it is possible to use an –ing form after need. It means the same as a passive infinitive.

  • Your hair needs washing. (= Your hair needs to be washed.)
  • The carpet needs cleaning. (= The carpet needs to be cleaned.)
  • The roof needs repairing.

A structure with need + object + present/past participle is also possible in some cases.

  • You need your hair cutting/cut.
  • You need your car cleaned.

Modal Auxiliary Verb Must

Must is a modal auxiliary verb. It has no –s in the third person singular.

  • He must go. (NOT He must go…)

Must is followed by an infinitive without to.

  • I must get some rest.
  • You must finish the report today itself.
  • You must not tell this secret to anyone else.
  • Little children must not be left unattended.

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • Must we go now?
  • You must not worry.

Must have no infinitive (to must) or participles (musting, musted). And it has no past tense. When necessary, we use other words, for example, forms of having to.

  • He will have to start coming on time. (NOT He will must …)
  • We had to cancel the project. (NOT We musted …)

Meaning

Must indicate that it is necessary or very important that something happens. If you say that you must do something, you mean that you have a definite intention to do something in future.

  • I must get my hair cut.
  • I must stop smoking.
  • We must get someone to repair the roof.

If you tell someone else that they must do something, you are emphasizing that it is a good idea for them to do that.

  • You must stop lying.

Uses of must

To express a conclusion

Must be used to express the conclusion that something is certain or highly possible.

  • If A is bigger than B, and B is bigger than C, then A must be bigger than C.
  • There is the doorbell. That must be the postman.

Must in questions and negatives

Must is not often used to express certainty in questions and negative clauses. In questions we use can.

  • Somebody is knocking at the door. Who can it be? (NOT Who must it be?)

In negative clauses we generally use cannot/can’t to say that something is certainly not the case.

  • It can’t be your mother. She is in Kolkata.

However, mustn’t is normal in question tags after must, and in negative questions.

  • It must be nice to be a bird, mustn’t it?

To express necessity

Must is often used in affirmative sentences to say what is necessary and to give strong advice and orders to ourselves and other people.

  • We must get up early and start on our way.
  • We must build a strong army to defend the country.
  • I must stop smoking.

Must be used in questions to ask about what the hearer thinks is necessary.

  • Must I go now?

In American English, have to is more common.

  • Do I have to go now?

Must not or mustn’t is used to say that things should not be done, or tell people not to do things.

  • You must not open this parcel until Diwali.
  • You must not lie.

Must vs. Have To

In British English, both must and have to can be used to talk about necessity and obligation. Americans usually use have to, especially in speech.

  • I must reach home before 6 o’clock.
  • OR I have to reach home before 6 o’clock.

Note that must is usually used to talk about obligations that arise from the feelings and wishes of the speaker or the listener.

  • I must go home. (Because I want to go home.)
  • You must quit smoking.

Have to is usually used to talk about obligations that come from laws, regulations, arrangements and other people’s orders.

Compare:

  • I have got a toothache. I must make an appointment with the dentist. (Speaker’s wish)
  • I can’t come to your party because I have got to see the dentist at 6 o’clock. (A pre-existing arrangement)

Future obligations

To talk about future obligations we can use will have to or have to go to.

  • I have got to be there at 9 o’clock.
  • After you finish your graduation, you will have to find a job.
  • Must be used to give instructions for the future.
  • You can go out if you want to but you must be back before 10 pm.

Grammar notes

Although must and have to express similar ideas, the negatives must not and do not have to / have not got to have quite different meanings.

Must not is used to prohibit. Do not have to is used to say that there is no obligation.

Compare:

  • You must not go. (= Don’t go.)
  • You don’t have to go. (= You can go if you want to but it is not necessary.)

Ought To

Ought is a modal auxiliary verb. There is no –s in the third person singular.

  • She ought to understand. (NOT She oughts to …)

Ought is different from other auxiliary verbs. It is used with to

  • We ought to respect our parents.
  • We ought to help the poor.

Note that too is dropped in question tags.

  • You ought to love your country, ought not you? (NOT…ought not you too.)

Ought does not have infinitives (to ought) or participles (outing, ought). Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • Ought we to help them? (NOT Do we ought to …)
  • You ought not to go now.

Ought is rarely used in questions and negatives; should is generally used instead. A structure with think … ought is also common.

  • We ought to help them, shouldn’t we? (More natural than ought not we?)
  • Do you think I ought to consult a doctor? (More natural than Ought I to consult a doctor?)
  • Should we tell her? (Less formal than Ought we to tell her?)

Ought: Meaning

Ought expresses duty, necessity, desirability and similar ideas. It is often used to advise people – to tell them that they must do things. The meaning is similar to should

  • You ought to attend office regularly. (Duty)
  • We ought to help the needy. (Moral obligation)
  • We ought to buy some furniture. (Necessity)

Ought is not as forceful as a must.

Uses

To express probability

Ought can express logical probability.

  • If he started an hour ago, he ought to be here soon.

Ought to have + past participle

When ought refers to past time, it is followed by the perfect infinitive. This structure can be used to talk about things that were supposed to happen but did not.

  • I ought to have written to my parents, but I forgot.
  • You ought to have invited her to your party.

This structure can also be used to make guesses.

  • It is ten o’clock. He ought to have reached home.

Ought not to have can be used to talk about things that happened unnecessarily.

  • We ought not to have wasted so much time over it.
  • We have done things that we ought not to have done.
  • We have left undone things that we ought to have done.

Need As An Ordinary Verb And An Auxiliary Verb

Need is used both as an ordinary verb and as an auxiliary verb.

As an ordinary verb

As an ordinary verb need is used in the sense of ‘require’. It has the usual forms needs and needed. The ordinary need is followed by an infinitive with to.

  • One needs to be punctual.
  • Everybody needs to be loved.
  • He needed some more time to decide the question.

Questions and negatives are made with doing.

  • Do you need to go now?
  • I don’t need to talk to him.

As an auxiliary verb

The auxiliary form of need is used mainly in questions and negatives. It is also used after negative words like hardly and only.

  • You need not work today.
  • Need I go now?
  • Need we reserve seats?
  • He need only say what he wants and it will be granted.
  • I need hardly add that you are always welcome.

The auxiliary need is followed by an infinitive without to. It has no –s in the third person singular.

  • He need not wait. (NOT He needs not to wait.)
  • You need not come.

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • Need I come again? (NOT Do I need to come again?)

Note that the auxiliary form of need is rare in American English.

Points to be noted

The auxiliary need is mainly used to ask for or give permission. It is not used to talk about habitual or general things.

  • You need not work today. (Auxiliary – Particular occasion)
  • You don’t need to work on Sundays. (Ordinary – habitual thing)
  • You need not pay for this call. (Auxiliary – Particular occasion)
  • In most countries, you don’t need to pay for emergency calls. (Ordinary – general thing)

Need is usually used in questions without ‘not’.

  • Need I wait any longer?
  • Need he come again?

If the answer is in the negative, you should say – ‘No, he need not’ or ‘No, you need not. But if the answer is in the positive, you should say – ‘Yes, he must’ or ‘Yes, you must. The opposite of need not in such a context is not needed but must.

Need not + perfect infinitive

The structure need not + perfect infinitive can be used to say that somebody did something, but that was unnecessary.

  • They need not have come all this way. (= They came all this way, but it was not necessary.)
  • We need not have waited for his approval. (= We waited for his approval, but that was not necessary.)
  • You need not have bought a new car.
  • You need not have paid for that call.

Note that need not have does not mean the same as did not need to. When we say that somebody did not need to do something, we are simply saying that it was not necessary (whether or not it was done).

Compare:

  • I need not have bought it. (=I bought it, but it was not necessary.)
  • I didn’t need to buy it. (= I didn’t need to buy it.)

Need + participle

In British English, it is possible to use an –ing form after need. It means the same as a passive infinitive.

  • Your hair needs washing. (= Your hair needs to be washed.)
  • The carpet needs cleaning. (= The carpet needs to be cleaned.)
  • The roof needs repairing.

A structure with need + object + present/past participle is also possible in some cases.

  • You need your hair cutting/cut.
  • You need your car cleaned.

Will | Modal Auxiliary Verb

Will is a modal auxiliary verb. It is followed by an infinitive without to. There is no –s in the third person singular.

  • She will come. (NOT She will come.)
  • I will do it.

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • Will you come with me? (NOT Do you will …)
  • I will not let him go.

Uses

To express simple futurity

Will is used to talking about future events that you are certain about or things that are planned.

  • Ann will be 10 years old next month.
  • There will be trouble if he catches you stealing his flowers.
  • The train leaves at 9:30, so we will be home by lunchtime.

To talk about willingness

Will shows determination or willingness on the part of the speaker.

  • I will come with you.
  • There is the doorbell. I will go.
  • We will not surrender.

Will can also express a promise or a threat.

  • I will do whatever I can to help you.
  • I will teach him a lesson.
  • We will dismiss you from service.

To ask someone to do something

Will can be used to ask someone to do something.

  • Ask Manish if he will help.
  • Will you lend me some money?
  • Will you give the book to John when you meet him?

To make requests and offers

Will can be used as a polite way of inviting someone to do something or of offering someone something. Note that would is a more polite form of will.

  • Will you join us for a drink?
  • Will you send me the report?

Won’t you be used to make a pressing offer?

  • You will have some coffee, won’t you?

To give orders

Will can be used in orders.

  • Will you be quiet?
  • If you don’t behave, you will go straight to bed.

To talk about the possibility

Will can show possibility.

  • ‘There is the doorbell.’ ‘That will be Sita.’

Shall As A Modal Auxiliary Verb

Shall is a modal auxiliary verb. It is followed by an infinitive without to. Shall have no –s in the third person singular.

  • I shall be home soon.
  • We shall invite them to dinner.
  • I think I shall send him a wire.
  • We shall be leaving for Delhi tomorrow.

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • Shall we report this to the police? (NOT Do we shall…?)
  • No, we shall not. (NOT We don’t shall.)

With the first person

In the first person shall expresses simple futurity. It is used to show the strong possibility or near certainty of an action or event which is to take place in the future.

With the second or third person

In the second and third persons shall express a command.

  • You shall go at once. (= You are commanded to go at once.)
  • He shall carry out my instructions. (= He is commanded to carry out my instructions.)

Sometimes it is used to make a promise.

  • shall be given a present if he passes this year.

Shall also express a threat.

  • You shall regret this.
  • They shall pay for this in due course.

Note that shall be becoming increasingly less common in Modern English. Instead of using shall in the second and third person to indicate a command, promise or threat, people often use other verbs and expressions.

For You shall go at once, people often say You will have to go at once, You are to go at once or You must go at once.

Shall: Uses

To make suggestions

Shall be used with the first person pronouns (I or we) to make suggestions.

  • You don’t look well. Shall I call the doctor?
  • It is very cold. Shall I close the window?
  • Shall I drop you at the station?

To talk about certainty

Shall can show certainty. It is used to say that something will certainly happen, or that you are determined that something will happen.

  • Don’t worry. I shall be there to help you.
  • She shall clean the kitchen, no matter whether she likes it or not.

Shall vs. Will

Expressing simple future

Shall be used with first-person pronouns (I, we) to express a simple future.

  • We shall discuss the matter with them.
  • I shall write to him.
  • We shall invite them for dinner.

With the second (you) and third person (he, she, they, it) pronouns, we use will to express simple futurity.

  • I am sure he will come.
  • The train will leave at 7:30 pm.
  • He will be at university soon.

Showing determination

Will can be used with first-person pronouns to express ideas such as determination, willingness, promise, threat etc.

  • We will not surrender. (Determination)
  • I will do it, whatever happens (Determination)
  • I will teach you a lesson. (Thread)
  • Yes, I will lend you my car for the day. (Willingness)

The second (you) and third person (he, she, they) pronouns, shall be used to express similar ideas.

  • You shall get a medal if you stand first. (Promise)
  • He shall be given a present if he passes this year. (Promise)
  • You shall go at once. (Order)
  • They shall pay for this in due course. (Thread)

Notes

The distinction between shall and will is now strictly observed only by precise speakers. Shall is becoming increasingly less common with second and third-person pronouns. In the first person, however, shall is still used to indicate the simple future.

In conversation, people generally use the shortened form which may be a contraction of either shall or will.

  • We’ll invite them for dinner.
  • I’ll be going to Mumbai tomorrow.

Should As A Modal Auxiliary Verb

Should is a modal auxiliary verb. There is no –s in the third person singular.

  • He should be here soon. (NOT He shoulds …)
  • You should mend your ways.

Should is followed by an infinitive without to. Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • You should go now.
  • Should I go now?
  • No, you should not.

Note that should is the past equivalent of shall in indirect speech.

  • They asked, ‘What shall we do?’
  • They asked what they should do.

Uses

To express obligation

Should is often used to talk about duty or obligation. It can also be used to say or ask what the correct or best thing to do is.

  • You should tell the truth.
  • If you are not feeling well, you should consult a doctor.
  • There should be an investigation into the cause of the accident.

Note that should is not as strong as a must be.

In questions, should is used to ask for advice or instructions.

  • It is rather cold here. Should I turn the heating on?
  • What should we do now?
  • Should I seek his opinion?
  • Should we talk to him?

To express probability

Should can express logical probability.

  • You should find this grammar book helpful.
  • He should be here soon – he left home at six.
  • ‘Granny will be staying with us for a couple of months.’ ‘That should be nice.’
  • I should be able to beat him.
  • Mount Everest should be visible from Tiger Hill if the sky is clear.

Should have + past participle

The structure should have + past participle can be used to talk about past events which did not happen.

  • I should have sent the money this morning, but I forgot.

This structure can also be used to talk about past events which may or may not have happened.

  • They should have reached home by now. It is 10 o’clock.

We can use should not have + past participle to refer to unwanted or unnecessary things that happened.

  • You shouldn’t have said things like that to her.
  • It is very kind of you, but you shouldn’t have bothered.

Should or Would?

In British English, both would and should can be used after first-person pronouns (I and we). There is no difference in meaning.

  • I would/should like some sweets before I go to bed.
  • We would/should be happy to receive them at the airport.

Should after why

Should be used after why to suggest surprise.

  • Why should anyone want to buy something so useless?
  • Why shouldn’t she buy it if she can afford it?
  • I don’t see why we should have to pay for our mistakes.

Should in subordinate clauses

Should be used after certain adjectives expressing personal judgments and reactions. Examples are: odd, strange, sad, unfair etc.

  • Strangely, she should find old men attractive.
  • Oddly, she should want to trust him again.

This also happens after adjectives and nouns expressing the importance of action. Examples are: necessary, important, essential, vital, eager etc.

  • It is important that the meeting should be a success.
  • She must be told.

Other cases

Should use after so that, so that, for fear that, in the case and lest to show the purpose of an action.

  • He took an umbrella so that he shouldn’t get wet.
  • He ran lest he should miss the train.
  • He took his umbrella in case it should rain.

Should in conditional clauses

Should is used in conditional clauses expressing possibilities, suppositions etc.

  • If he should come, ask him to wait.
  • Should it rain, there will be no picnic today.

Note that if he should come indicates less likelihood of his coming than if he comes. The sentence means something like this: There is not much chance of his coming. But if he turns up, ask him to wait.

Would | Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Would is a modal auxiliary verb. There are no -s in the third person singular. Would is followed by an infinitive without to.

  • He said he would try his best to help me.
  • I would like to know what my duty is.
  • The doctor said he would visit the patient.

Questions and negatives are made without doing.

  • Would you like some coffee? (NOT Do you would like …)

Would and Will

Would is a softer, less definite form of will. It is used in polite requests and offers.

I would like to meet him.

Would act like the past of will in indirect speech.

  • She said, ‘I will not live here anymore.’
  • She said that she would not live there anymore.

Would: Uses

To make polite offers and requests

Would is often used in polite requests and offers. It is a softer, less definite form of will.

  • Would you mind moving a bit?
  • Would you mind sharing a room?
  • I would like to meet the manager.

Would also be used to express an opinion more politely without being forceful.

  • This is not what we would expect from a professional service.

To talk about past habits

Would be used to talk about past events that happened often or always.

  • He would always bring us nice gifts without telling us why.
  • The old man would recline in a corner and sleep most of the time.
  • After dinner, we would sit in a common room and chat for a while.

Would is often used to suggest that what happens is expected because it is typical, especially of a person’s behaviour.

  • She would always trust the wrong person.
  • ‘Ann rang to say that she was too busy to come.’ ‘She would – she always has an excuse.’

To talk about willingness and determination

Would express willingness or a rather perverse determination.

  • He said he would try his best to help me. (Willingness)
  • He would bet on that horse, though I asked him not to. (Determination)
  • She would have her way.

Wouldn’t show unwillingness.

  • I asked him to move his car, but he said he wouldn’t.

To talk about imaginary situations

Would is sometimes used to refer to a situation that you can imagine happening.

  • I would hate to miss the show.
  • I would go myself but I am too busy.
  • It would have been quite boring to sit through the entire speech.

Would and used to

Both would and used to can refer to repeated actions and events in the past.

  • She would/used to always carry an umbrella.

Note that used to can refer to past states; would cannot.

  • I used to have an old Rolls Royce. (NOT I would have …)

Would rather

Would rather express choice or preference.

  • She would rather die than writing her mathematics test.
  • They would rather go to jail than pay the fine.

Would vs. Used to

Would

Use would talk about repeated actions and events in the past.

  • The old man would sit in a corner talking to himself for hours.
  • After dinner, we all would sit in the home theatre and watch movies.

Difference

We can use used to talk about past states. Would not be used with this meaning.

  •  I used to have an old Rolls-Royce. (NOT I would have an old Rolls-Royce.)

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