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Modal Auxiliaries

 A modal is an auxiliary verb that
functions with a main verb and carries a
special meaning or function.
 Modals are used with the short infinitive of
the verb (Present Infinitive, Perfect
Infinitive, Progressive Infinitive).
Talking about
the present or future
a. To express ability (physical
and mental):
 Use can; the negative  The USS Enterprise (Big
of can is cannot E), the first nuclear-
powered aircraft carrier in
the world, can travel at
speeds over 60 km/h.
 The new recruits cannot
march well in formation,
but will quickly learn.
b. To ask for and give
 Could, can and may are  Could I use the phone?
used. May is usually used  Pvt Gregory: May I take
in formal situations; can leave on Friday, sir?
is informal.  Capt David: No, you may
 Could is the most not.
recommended form.
 May not is more
emphatic than cannot.
c. To make polite requests:
 Would, could, and will when used with
"you" are all used. All have about the
same meaning, except for could, which
carries a slight meaning of possibility. (Do
you want to do this? Is it possible for you
to do this?) Please is often used.
Examples of polite requests:
 Maj Thompson: Sergeant, could you get
Captain Adams on the line?
 Sgt Mattis: Yes, sir. I will do it right now.
 Would you please remind the major that
the briefing on the mission training plan
(MTP) will be held at 1400?
d. To express possibility (maybe,
 Use may and might.  A lieutenant does not have free
access to his brigade
May expresses more commander; a proper chain of
certainty than might. command may give him a
better perspective of his
 Some of these products may
currently be under
 The system increases the
ability of the Alliance to
prepare for, and respond to,
the full range of crises that the
Alliance might be required to
e. To give advice, make
recommendations, or remind someone of
something important:
 Use should, ought  Ex. FPGs should
to, and had better. guide a planner in
For questions and drafting the annex to
negatives, we usually an operational plan
use should or had for a specific
better. functional area.
 Hadn’t you better
complete the report
e. To give advice, make
recommendations, or remind someone of
something important:

 Had better implies that, if the advice or

recommendation is not followed, the
outcome might be a bad one.
 Ex. The clouds look very grey. You had
better take your umbrella. (= otherwise,
you may get wet to the bone).
f. To express expectation:
 Should and ought to are also used to
express expectation.
 Ex. Finish putting the meeting room in
order. The general should be here any
 The meeting ought to start on time.
g. To express obligation and
 Use must and have  Ex. Complementary
to. Must (obligation) Planning Tools are other
has a stronger essential documents
which planners must
meaning than have to consult.
(necessity) and refers  Capt Paulson has to
mostly to laws and attend the mission
regulations, orders. briefing at 0900 this
Had to is used for morning.
both the past of must  Capt Paulson had to
and have to, with no attend the mission
difference in meaning briefing yesterday.
or modal function:
h. To express prohibition:
 must not stresses that something is not
allowed or is against the law or
regulations. It can also be used as a
 Ex. The unit’s planning procedures must
not be long; they must be as brief and to
the point as possible.
i. To express lack of necessity:

 not have to shows that something is not

necessary or required.
 Ex. Military personnel on base don’t have
to wear their uniforms when they are off
j. To express probability or
inference (logical deduction):
 use must. Must can also be followed by
be+Ving (Progressive Infinitive), to
express an inference about an action in
 Ex. The captain is not here today; he must
be ill.
 The soldiers are not in their office. They
must be training in the field.
 Insert the correct modal auxiliary. It is possible
to have more than one grammatically correct
answer. Motivate your choices:
1. The Ferrari ___ reach speeds of 210 mph.
2. The change of command ceremony
begins at 1000. You ___ be there by
3. You ___ drive fast here: there is a sharp
4. Finish putting the meeting room in order,
the general ___ be here any minute.
5. Lifts ___ not be used during fire drills.
6. Tom has an apartment in New Youk and a
mansion in England: he ___ be rich!
7. I really don’t know where CPO Jones is.
He ___ be at the sickbay.
8. You ___ read this book for your
9. A military commander ___ build cohesion
and team attitude ASAP.
10. It is now 1130. The ARG (amphibious
ready group) ___ arrive on the beach at
11. The scouts ___ position guides to link up
with the battalion after completing the
12. We ___ stay on base because of the
security alert.
13. You ___ amplify on information given
during a briefing by using charts and
14. Col. Dankins doesn’t answer his mobile
phone. He ___ be out of range.
15. Sgt Davis ___ follow orders; if not, there
is no doubt he will be in trouble.
16. The focus of units conducting search
and attack operations ___ be to find, fix,
and finish the enemy.
Talking about the
 Many modal auxiliaries can be used with
the Perfect Infinitive (have + V Past
Participle) to express the speaker’s
attitude about the past.
a. Deduction in the past
 To express certainty: we use must have
+ the Past Participle of the verb when we
are sure something in the past is true as a
logical conclusion based on the known
 Ex. Cooper must have brought the bomb
without anyone seeing this.
b. Impossibility in the past
 We use the negative forms can’t have or
couldn’t have + Past Participle when we
are sure something in the past is NOT
 Ex. Cooper can’t / couldn’t have spent
all the money because some of it was
found later.
c. Possibility in the past
 We use may have / might have or could
have + Past Participle when we think
something in the past is possible.
 Ex. Cooper might have escaped to
Mexico, also he may have died or he
could have stayed in the mountains.
c. Possibility in the past
 We use the negative forms may not have/
might not have when we think something
possibly did NOT happen in the past.
 Ex. The thief may / might not have spent
all the money he had stolen.
d. Advisability after the fact
 We use should / shouldn’t have or
ought / oughtn’t have + Past Participle
to talk about unreal situations, which are
different from what actually happened.
This can imply regret, criticism and
advisability after the event happened.
 I shouldn’t have become a doctor. (but I
did!) It’s too much work.
 I should have phoned Sue. (but I didn’t!)
 You ought to have brought a spare set of
keys. (but you didn’t!)

 Insert the correct modal auxiliary + Verb in the

Perfect Infinitive:
1. If we had known the VIPs were planning
to visit our base, we ___ (plan) a better
2. The witness was very convincing, so I
guess he ___ (see) the robber’s face.
3. There were debris all over the beach: the
ship ___ (explode).
4. The training exercise ___ (conclude)
before the major inspection began, not
5. Don’t be so sure you lost your key: you
___ just ___ (mislay) it.
6. The training video on mine awareness
that lasts 20 min. started at 0900. It’s
0930, so the students ___ (finish) viewing
7. The galley’s closed. We ___ (go) earlier
to get some food.
8. They ___ (not be) at the captain’s briefing
this morning; they were here all the time.
9. PO Rogers was not at formation
yesterday; he ___ (be) sick, because he
has never been absent before.
10. The sailor’s response to his superior was
unexpected and rude. He ___ (not
answer) in that tone.
11. The vessel never received the distress
signal. The terrible storm ___ (damage)
the communication sysytem, I don’t see
any other reason.
12. I’m sorry to contradict you, but the
retired colonel ___ (not attend) the
veterans’ parade, because he was in
hospital at that moment.
Progressive forms
of modals
 A modal verb can also be followed by the
Progressive Infinitive.
A. Progressive form, present
 modal + be + V-ing, when the action referred to
is in progress right now.
 Ex. All lights in Ann’s room are turned off. She
must be sleeping.
 Let’s just knock on the door lightly. Tom may be
B. Progressive form, past time

 modal + have been + V-ing, when the action

referred to is in progress at a time in the past.
 Ex. Sue wasn’t at home last night when we went
to visit her. She might have been studying at
the library.
 A. Did Ed mean what he said about Andy
 B. I don’t know. He may have been kidding
when he said that.
Insert the correct modal auxiliary + Verb in the
Progressive Infinitive, present or past:
1. Margie is not in her room. She ___ (do)
the dishes in the kitchen.
2. I can smell smoke. Something ___ (burn)
in the flat upstairs.
3. Frank’s line has been busy for over an
hour. He ___ (talk) to his parents or his
4. When I called Jane, there was a terrible
noise in her house. It sounded like a herd
of elephants: the children ___ (play) some
kind of game.
5. I couldn’t reach my friend on the mobile
phone last week. He ___ (travel)
somewhere out of reception.