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6. ЧАН











There are 12 modal verbs in English. They are: can, may, must, should, ought to, shall, will, would, need, dare, to be, to have to.

The latter two are modal only in one of their meanings. Ten of them (that is all but "to be to" and "to have to) are also called defective verbs as they lack some features:

1. They don't take -s- in the third person singular.

2. They have no verbals, so they have no analytical forms.

3. They have (except "can" and "may") only one form and no past tense.

4. They are followed (except for "ought to") by a bare infinitive.

5. They need no auxiliary to build up the interrogative and negative forms.

The verbs can, may, must, should, ought to, shall, will, would, need, dare, to be to, to have to are called modal as they express modality alongside with moods and modal words and phrases. Semantically modal verbs express neither action nor states. They only show the speaker's attitude to the probability, improbability, necessity, desirability of the action expressed by the notional verb in the form of the infinitive.

The verbs could, might, should, would besides denoting a past action, may denote an

unreal action.


She could go there if she wanted to.

You might do something for me.

You should speak to him about it.

He wouldn't do a thing like this.

So we say that these modal verbs have one form of the Subjunctive Mood.

When followed by a perfect infinitive, this form denotes an unreal action in the past.

I could have gone there.

You might have gone there.

I would have gone.

He should have agreed.




"CAN" has two moods: Indicative and Subjunctive. In the indefinite mood it has two tenses: present and past. The verb "can" has two forms: "Can" and "could".

CAN-------------- Indicative mood - present


- Indicative mood - past


-Subjunctive mood - present


The main meaning of the verb "can" is:

1. Physical or mental ability or learned skills (in all type of sentences). It corresponds to
the Russian "может, умеет, в состоянии, обладает возможностью".

Не can translate this article.

I can't lift the box. It is too heavy.

2. Objective possibility=it is possible "можно".

You can buy this dictionary.


In this meaning "can" is found in all kinds of sentences. It is followed by the simple infinitive and it refers the action to the present or future.

Anybody can make a mistake.

Can we use the indefinite article here?

We can't use the indefinite article with this noun.


In past-time contexts "could" is used. It is followed by the simple infinitive in this case.


I could go to the theatre yesterday. I was free.


The form "could" in combination with the simple infinitive "may" also express unreality with reference to the present or future.

You could see the house from here if it were not so dark.


In combination with the perfect infinitive "could" indicates that the action was not carried out in the past.

You could have seen him if it hadn’t been so dark.

NOTE: When "could" is used with reference to the past it denotes only the ability or possibility of performing an action but not the realization of the action. Therefore when a realized or an unrealized action is expressed, "could" is naturally not used. If an action was carried out in the past, it is expressed with the help of "to manage" or "to succeed" (the latter is used in literary style) or "to be able to".

He managed to do everything he wanted.

He. succeeded in finishing his work in time.

I was able to finish my work in an hour.

(I managed, I could and I did.)


If an action wasn't realized in the past it is expressed by the verb "to fail", or "to manage" and "succeed' in the negative form.

He failed to finish his work in time.

He didn't manage to finish his work in time.


3. Permission (in colloquial informal speech; is used when speaking with close friends, relatives etc. that is in unofficial spoken language.)


You can take my book. I don't need it.

NOTE: The verb "may" is more polite here.


4. Prohibition (нельзя, запрещено) only in negative sentences.


You can't cross the street here. You can't smoke here.

6. Request

Can I have some water?

Can you do it?

NOTE:"Could" suggests a greater degree of politeness.

Could you come again tomorrow?

"CAN" followed by any form of theinfinitive mayexpress:


1. Strong doubt, improbability (невероятность, неуверенность). This meaning occurs only with the negative form of the modal verb.

He can't be working at this time. = It is impossible that he is working.

He can’t have seen it. = It is impossible that he saw it.

It corresponds to the Russian (не может быть, чтобы...)


"Could" is used instead of "can" to express greater doubt.


You couldn't have read the book in original it is too difficult for you. (вряд ли.)

You can't have read the book in Russian, it is not translated (не может быть,



The time reference is indicated not by the form of the verb ("can" or "could") but by that of the infinitive.

Depending on the time reference "can" in this meaning is used in combination with different forms of the infinitive. If reference is made to the present the simple infinitive is found with stative verbs and with dynamic verbs the continuous infinitive is used.

He can't be really ill.

She can't be telling lies.


"Can" + perfect infinitive refers the action to the past.

He can’t/ couldn’t have told the truth.


2. Surprise when can/could is used in general questions. It corresponds to the Russian


Depending on the time reference "can" is used with different forms of the infinitive.

To refer the action to the past a perfect infinitive is used:

Can she have told a lie?


With dynamic verbs the continuous infinitive or the perfect continuous infinitive may be used:

Can she be telling lies?

Can she have been waiting for us so long?


"Could" is also used in this way, implying more uncertainty.

Could it be true?

Could she be telling lies?

Could he have said it?

Could she have been waiting for us so long?

InRussian both variants - "неужели... ?"


3. "Can" and "could" followed by different forms of the infinitive are found in special
questions where they are used for emotional colouring (for instance, to express puzzlement, impatience)

What can/could he mean?

What can/could he be doing?

Where can/could he have gone to?

It is rendered in Russian as "Что собственно он имеет в виду? ..."


"MAY" has two forms: "may" and "might" It has two Moods: Indicative and Subjunctive.

In the Indicative Mood it has two tenses: present and past.

"MAY"--------------------------------- Indicative Mood - present.


"MIGHT" Indicative Mood - past

Subjunctive Mood - present

The main meanings:

1. Objective possibility (absence of any obstacle to an action).


You may hear this song everywhere.

You may find all the books you want in the Lenin Library. - It's possible that you will find...

"May" is used only in affirmative sentences.

"Can" is used in questions and negative sentences.

The form "might" is used in past-time contexts in accordance with the rules of the sequence of tenses.

He said he might order a taxi by telephone.


"Might" followed by the perfect infinitive indicates that the action was not carried out owing to certain circumstances expressed in the sentence or implied.


You are so careless. You might have broken the cup.


2. Permission = to be allowed to, to be permitted to or polite request.

You may go now. (You are allowed to go)

May I take your book? (Am I allowed to take your book?)

"Might" is used in polite request of permission.

Might I use your telephone?


"Can" is now more common than "may" or "might" to express informally the idea of permission.

When the action was permitted and performed the expression "was allowed to" is preferable.

When translating the article we were allowed to use a dictionary.

"May" or "might" followed by any form of the infinitive may express:


1. Supposition, doubt, uncertainty = perhaps or maybe, and occurs in affirmative and
I negative sentences (реже) = возможно, может быть.

Не may come or he may not.

Может он придет, а может нет.

Take your umbrella. It may rain. (Perhaps it will rain.)


Non-perfect infinitive indicates reference to the present or future.

They may arrive today or tomorrow.


The perfect infinitive indicates reference to the past.

He may have left.


"Might" is also used here to express greater doubt (It is always Subjunctive Mood).

He might have left.

Может он и уехал.

She might be right.

Возможно, она и права.


In questions "can" is used instead of "may", or Is it (he, she) likely to..?

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