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Describing language
Describing language

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3.2 Modal auxiliaries

There are other auxiliary verbs which play an important part in English. These are the modal auxiliaries (sometimes just called modal verbs). Using these verbs allows us to change a verb from a simple statement of fact (this happened) to indicate how likely we think it is, or whether it is a good idea or not.

Activity 4 Spotlight on modal auxiliaries

Timing: This activity should take around 10 minutes

Watch the video below, which gives an overview of what you can do with these verbs.

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Video 1 Exploring modal auxiliaries
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While watching, fill in the modal verbs used in some of the examples (if you like, you can think of some possibilities before watching, then check to see if you were right:

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  1. I might go to the beach tomorrow.
  2. You should take plenty of suncream.
  3. They mustn’t use up all the milk.
  4. He should be there by now – it only takes an hour.
  5. They can’t be at home – I’ve called them three times and there’s no answer.

Notice that auxiliaries, when used in the negative, take the negative morpheme -n’t directly instead of using auxiliary do:

I can hear you. I can’t hear you.
They live here. They don’t live here.