In the previous High English quiz, we learnt the rules of grammar to follow when using modal verbs in the past tense and found the form ‘modal + have + past participle’ is followed to construct sentences. In this quiz we will take a look at the grammar to use with modal verbs in the present tense.
When using modals in the present tense the general rule is that the modals precede the infinitives without ‘to.’ The present tense accommodates almost all the modals. Some modals express specific attitudes and functions:
MAY, MIGHT, COULD, and CANNOT express possibility.
COULD, CAN and MAY express request.
DO NOT HAVE TO and NEED NOT express no obligation.
SHOULD expresses advice.
CAN and BE ABLE TO express ability.
MUST, HAVE TO and CANNOT express obligation/prohibition.
Here are some examples:
‘Govinda drove non-stop for more than 6 hours.'
'He COULD be exhausted after such a long drive.'
'He MIGHT prefer to rest for some time.’
In these last two sentences the modals express possibility.
‘I CAN just say a few things in Tamil’ is a sentence where the modal expresses ability.
‘MAY I hold the baby for a few minutes please?’ is a sentence where the modal expresses request.
‘When you have children, you SHOULD NOT leave dangerous objects lying around’ is a sentence where the modal expresses advice.
‘All motorists MUST follow traffic rules strictly’ is a sentence where the modal expresses obligation.
’You MUST NOT expose children to the cold’ is a sentence where the modal expresses prohibition.
We notice that some of the expressions are not modals but they are similar to them in meaning and often interchanged with them. Modals are complex, not necessarily in terms of their usage or forms but in terms of what they communicate. For instance, a sentence describing a simple action such as ‘someone is coming’ can elicit the following responses:
'That will be my friend'
'That must be my friend'
'That should be my friend'
'That could be my friend'
'That might be my friend'
'That may be my friend.'
The responses have a high degree of probability with ‘will’ to a low degree of probability with ‘may’ and the other modals used fall in between these extremes.
If we practise using modal verbs it will help us to understand the grammar of modals and the quiz that follows helps you to do just that – practise.