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     Volume 2 Issue 1 | January 6, 2007 |


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Learner's Club

You must be joking!

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 realises 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 that you might like to have a look at.
Rehana : Thanks a lot.

Notice the verbs in italics. They are called modal verbs or modal auxiliaries. 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.

A. 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.
Here are some more examples of the use of 'will' and 'won't' to predict future events.
1. He has less than 75% attendance in class.
He won't be allowed to sit for the exam. What will he do now? As far as I know him, he will keep it a secret from his parents and won't even tell his older sister with whom he's very friendly.
2. : The programme will start at six.
: I know. The chief guest will be here any moment.
3. : He had been late to office everyday for the last three days.
: If he continues like this he will lose his job.
B. Must and can't are also used to express certainty. Read the following sentences:
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.

In the examples above, must express the logical 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.'
Here are some more examples of the use of 'must' and 'can't' in this sense.

1. : I think our neighbour is an airhostess.
: She can't be. We have never seen her go anywhere.
2. All you read about in newspapers nowadays is crime, violence and death.
Things cannot continue like this. The government must do something to improve the law and order situation.
3. The baby has been crying without stopping. She must have a problem.
4. : I think your friend Bikash has come. He's talking to Grandpa.
: It can't be Bikash. He's in Chittagong now.

C. Must, must not and have to are used to express obligation, prohibition, and necessity. Read the following sentences.

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.

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

D. Must and have to are used to express something necessary while don't/doesn't have to, and needn't are used to express something not necessary.
Although Must and Have to are often used in almost the same sense i.e. to mean obligation, mustn't and don't have to are used to express two different meanings.

For example
You mustn't do it. (= it is necessary that you do not do it)
Where as, You don't have to do it. (= it is not necessary to do it)
Thus, 'don't have to' actually means lack of obligation.
Read the following sentences.
Must I pay the fees today?
No, you don't have to pay it today.
You can pay it any time before the classes start.
But you mustn't be late beyond that.


Read the following sentences and notice the use of 'must', 'have to', don't have to' and 'needn't'.
The room is dirty.
The clothes are dirty.
The radio is old.
The chairs are broken.
I must clean the room. = I have to clean the room.
You must wash the clothes. = You have to wash the clothes.
We must buy a new radio. = We have to buy a new radio.
We must buy some new chairs. = We have to buy some new chairs.

The room isn't dirty.
The clothes aren't dirty.
The radio isn't old.
The chairs aren't broken.
I needn't clean the room. = I don't have to clean the room.
You needn't wash the clothes. = You don't have to wash the clothes.
We needn't buy a new radio. = We don't have to buy a new radio.
We needn't buy any new chairs. = We don't have to buy new chairs.

This we think should be enough for today. We'll discuss some of the other modals in our next issue.



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