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Bài 1: Modal verb 1

 MODEL VERBS

Modal verbs (can, could, may, might, must, will, would, shall, should, ought to, need) are auxiliary verbs that give information about ability, possibility or necessity.

Modal verbs are followed by the infinitive without to and their form doesn't change:

Ex: He could speak French and Italian, (not He coulds speak)

Could you speak French before you lived there? (not Did you could speak)

1. Ability

We use the following verbs to talk about ability:

 

Present

can, can't, be able to, manage to

 I can't swim.

 Past

could, couldn't, be able to, manage to

They weren't able to find out his name.

Perfect

be able to, manage to

 Have you managed to finish the report  yet?

  Future

be able to, manage to

 I won't be able to meet you later.

It is more common to use can/could to talk about general ability in the present and past than

be able to

Ex: Can you remember much, about it? (= Are you able to remember?)

He could speak French and Italian, but he couldn't remember his name.

To talk about ability on one specific occasion in the past we use couldn't, was(n't)/ were(n't) able

to, but not could:

Ex: The police were able to find out that he could speak French and Italian, (not The police could find)

He couldn't remember who he was.

We sometimes use manage to to show that something is difficult to achieve:

Ex: I've finally managed to give up smoking after all these years!

We use be able to or manage to with perfect or future forms:

Ex: Apparently he's been able to find his family.

Within a year he'll probably be able to remember quite a lot. (not Within a year he can probably-

remember quite a lot.)

2. Other uses of can

We use can to mean sometimes:

Ex: People can do funny things when they've experienced something terrible. (= people .sometimes do funny things)

We also use can to ask for and give permission:

Ex: Can I borrow the car this afternoon?

You can borrow it, but I need it later this evening.

3. Possibility

We use must, may, might, could, couldn't and can't when there is some evidence, information or belief that something is probably or possibly true (or not true). The modal verb we choose depends on the strength of the evidence we have to support our ideas.

 

very likely

must

possible

might, may, could, may not, might not

very unlikely

can't, couldn't

Could, may and might express the same degree of possibility:
Ex:
He may/might/'could remember some things already.

Couldn't expresses the same probability as can't. It is usually used to talk about the past:
Ex:
The police realised he couldn't be Canadian. (= it was very unlikely that he was Canadian)

 May not and might not do not express the same probability as couldn't.

Ex: The supermarket may/might not be open today because it's a Bank Holiday, (not supermarket

couldn't be open)

Present

We use may (not), might (not), could(n't), must, can't + infinitive without to to talk about possibility in the present:

Ex: He may remember some things already. (= it is possible he remembers some things now)
       
It can't he very easy living with someone who doesn't remember any of the past.

We use may (not), might (not), could(n't), must, can't + be + -ing to talk about things (possibly) happening or in progress at the time of speaking:

Ex: They must be having a difficult time adjusting to it all.
       The phone is engaged. She might be talking to her sister on the phone.

had Past

We can use may (not), might (not), could(n't), must, can't + have + past participle to talk about

possibility in the past

Ex: In the attack he must have hit his head. (= there is strong evidence that he hit his head)

He could have a wife and children, (this is a possible situation)             

He can't have been married. (= there is strong evidence that he wasn't married)

We can use may (not), might (not), could(n't), must, can't + have been + -ing to talk about things

possibly happening or in progress in the past:

Ex: He might have been trying to run away from his past.


Future

We can use may (not), might (not), and could (not) + infinitive without to to talk about possibility or uncertainty in the future:
Ex: He could make
a total recovery one day.

We can use may (not), might (not), could (not), must, can't + be + -ing to talk about things possibly happening at a time in the future:
Ex:  I might be meeting
John later.

4. Expressing possibility and opinions in written texts

Modals are very important in written texts because they 'soften' the message and help to show that the author is expressing an opinion rather than a proven fact. May is very common in these kinds of texts as well as can used to mean 'sometimes'

Compare these sentences and the teacher's comments:

 

Student's work

Teacher's comment

People osc unkind about their colleagues but it is simply because they a/e feeling insecure at wcrk.

How do you know this?

People can be unkind about their colleagues but it may simply be because they are -Feeling insecure at ujork.

Good sentence.

Banning cars with high -fuel consumption is a cpod. ideaj as it will result in less pollution.

This is a very strong opinion.

Banning cars with high Fuel consumption may be a good idea, as it could result in a less pollution.

Good sentence. You are making your opinion 'softer'.

5. Alternatives to modals

Adverbs like certainly, probably, possibly, perhaps and maybe can be used to express similar

ideas to modal verbs:

Ex: He had probably been attacked and robbed. (= he must have been attacked)

We can use it + be + certain/likely/probable/possible/impossible to express ability, probability and

possibility:

Ex: It is possible to program your computet to translate texts automatically. (= you can program your

computer)

It is possible that the train will be late. (= the train might be late)

   

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