Auxiliaries and Modals

Auxiliaries and modals help to express permission, necessity, possibility etc. Now, let's learn them in this lesson.

The 'be' verbs [ am, is, was, are, were], have and do are used to make tense forms, questions , passive forms and negatives. So they are called auxiliary / helping verbs. Can, Could, may, ,might, will, would, shall, should, must, dare, need, ought to, used to are called modal verbs.

A. Be

(I) To from continuous tense:

  1. They are praying for good monsoon.
  2. He is playing hockey.

(II) To from passive form:

  1. The gate was closed.
  2. They were led by the guide.

(III) With infinitives :

(a) to indicate a plan, arrangement etc.

  1. I am to meet the doctor tomorrow.
  2. She is to be here by 4 p.m..

(b) to indicate command :

  1. She is to attend the interview.
  2. You are to surrender yourself at once.

B. Have

It is used:

(I) in the formation of perfect tense :

  1. He has finished his work.
  2. They have decorated the hall.

(II) 'have to' with infinitives to show obligation.

  1. You have to obey the rules.
  2. She has to submit the papers today.

(III) 'Had to' - to show obligation in the past.

  1. They had to adopt a child.
  2. We had to file a case against him.

C. Do

It is used:

(I) in the formation of negative and interrogative:

  1. Catherine does not practice regularly.
  2. She did not win the case.
  3. We do not expect anything from you.
  4. Does the like to join the course?
  5. Did you renew your card?
  6. Do they take rest now?

(II) To avoid repetition of a verb:

  1. Did she finish her work? - Yes, she did. [You need not say - " Yes , she finished her work"]

(III) to emphasize something:

  1. We do need a loan now. [ Getting a loan is a must]
  2. A strict warming was given. But the children did enter the garden.

(IV) To persuade something with request or invitation.

  1. Do stand in a line, please.
  2. Do come and bless our child.

D. Can, Could, may, might.
(I) Can express ability or capability

  1. I can climb up the hill.
  2. They can win the dance competition.
  3. Can you carry this bag to the station?

(II) May is used to show possibility in affirmative sentence:

  1. She may come next week.
  2. They may attend the party.

(III) Can and may - express permission : [ 'may' is formal]:

  1. She can / may use my dictionary.
  2. can / may I use your camera?

(IV) can is used in corresponding interrogative and negative sentences:

  1. Can they help him?
  2. They cannot help him.
  • When you say 'cannot help' - it denotes impossibility- that cannot be done - impracticable .
  • When you say 'may not help' - it shows improbability - that cannot be believed - something absurd

(V) to express a wish 'may' is used in formal English

  1. May God bless you!
  2. May success be yours!

(VI) 'Could' and might are past equivalent of 'can' and 'may':

  1. She could play chess when she was at college.
  2. The principal said, I could might take leave.
  3. We thought he might go abroad.

(VII) could expresses polite requests sometimes:

  1. Could you do me a favour ?
  2. Could you open the door, please?