Volume 2 Issue 18 | September 15, 2007 |


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Learner's Club

Modal Verbs

Rehana had taken a secretarial course few yeas ago. She can write short hand and can type too. But she can't use a word processor. She realizes that to get a good secretarial job, she must learn to use a computer. She also has to improve her English which is not very good. So she goes to a Computer Training Institute. At the admission office she has the following conversation with the admission officer.

Rehana : Could you please tell me when the next course starts?
Admin. Officer : Well, we've different courses that start at different times.

They are the Beginner's, the Intermediate, and the Advanced Courses. Which one would you like to do?
Rehana : The Beginner's Course.
Admin Officer : It starts from the next week. It's a six week course, and the fee is Tk. 3000.
Rehana : Can I get admission now?

Admin Officer : Yes, you can. You have to fill in this form first. And you must pay two third of the fees now. The rest you can pay within 3 weeks after the course starts.

Rehana : Well, in that case, I think I'll come back tomorrow.
Admin Officer : That's o.k. You must bring two copies of your photos. And take the brochure of the courses. There's also an English course which you might like to have a look at.
Rehana : Thanks a lot.

The modal verbs are a subtle area of the English language.
The main modal verbs in English are can, could, may, might, must, shall, ought to, should, will, would, have to and need, and dare. They are used with another verb, and can all refer to the certainty, possibility or probability of an event. Also they can all refer to future time. Notice and list the modal verbs from the conversation above.

Will and won't are used to predict a future event which is seen as certain. For example:

My family and I will go for a picnic tomorrow. We will first take a bus to Sadarghat, and then will go by a steamer to Munshiganj. We will stay there overnight and will come back the next evening. I won't go to school tomorrow.

Now fill in the blanks with will or won't.
1. He has less than 75% attendance in class.
He ----- be allowed to sit for the exam. What -------- he do now? As far as I know him, he -------- keep it a secret from his parents and -------- even tell his older sister with whom he's very friendly.

2. The program ----- start at six.
I know. The chief guest ---- be here any moment.
















3. He had been late to office everyday for the last three days.
If he continues like this he --- lose his job.

4. Imagine that your class has organized a variety show for the annual prize giving ceremony. Write a letter to a friend telling him or her about the things you will do.

5. Make a list of resolutions for the New Year. Mention some of the things you will do and will not do.
Must and can't are used to express certainty
He ate ten eggs at a time! He must be mad!
You must be joking! I don't believe you.

Must is used here to assert something that we infer or conclude to be the most logical possibility of a situation or an event. The negative of this use of must is can't, for example: My mark-sheet shows that I've failed in English. There must be some mistake. English has always been my strong subject! It simply can't be.

He can't be the owner of that house!
He's just a salesman in a furniture shop.
In the examples above, must expresses the logical al possibility (a mistake) of the situation (English being his strong subject). And then the logical possibility that he cannot have failed is expressed with 'It simply can't be.'

Now fill in the blanks in the following sentences with must or can't.
1. I think our neighbor is an airhostess. She ---- be. We have never seen her go anywhere.

2. All you read about in news papers now-a-days is crime, violence and death.
Things ---- continue like this. The government ----- do something to improve the law and order situation.

3. The baby has been crying without stopping. She -------- have a problem.

4. Have you noticed that the young man next door always leaves home at 9 at night and comes back home at around 7 next morning. Yes, I have. He ---- work night shift.

5. I think your friend Bikash has come. He's talking to Grandpa. It ---- be Bikash. He's in Chittagong now.
Must, must not and have to are used to express obligation, prohibition, and necessity.

The teacher says to her students, "You must submit your essay tomorrow. I won't accept any after that. And you must not copy your essay from any book or from any one else's writing."

Why are you leaving so early? Have another cup of tea. No, I can't, I have to pay the bills before going to office.

In the first example, must means necessity or obligation. And must not is used to mean prohibition. Must/must not in this sense usually has an authoritative tone.

Have to expresses obligation on the part of the speaker, and expresses the fact that something has to be done. The past tense of have to is had to. For example:

I left office fifteen minutes early yesterday as I had to pick up my son from his aunt's house.



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