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The use of "can" and "may" is parallel only in two meanings: possibility due to

circumstances and permission. In these meanings, however, they are not always

interchangeable for a number of various reasons.


1. In the meaning of possibility the use of "may" is restricted (only affirmative sentences).


He may find this book at the library.



He can find this book in the library.

Can he find this book in the library?

He can’t find this book in the library.


Their time reference is also different. "May" refers only to the present or future: the

form "might" is used in past-time contexts only in reported speech.

Can/could may refer to the present, past or future.


He may find the book in the library. He can find the book in the library.

He could find the book in the library yesterday.

He can find the book in the library tomorrow.
He said he might find the book... He said he could find the book...


Both "could" and "might" combined with the perfect infinitive indicate that the action

was not carried out in the past.

He could/might have found the book in the library.


The verb "must" has only one form which is used as the Present tense of the Indicative Mood.

"Must" has the following meanings:

1. Obligation, realized necessity, duty, order.

When it is used in this meaning it can be followed only by the indefinite infinitive (active and passive).


I must go there.

You must do it yourself.


NOTE: When absence of necessity is expressed the verb "need" is used. Compare:


You must go there. =It is necessary for you to go there.

You needn't go there. = Itis not necessary for you to go there.


In this meaning "must" is found in affirmative and interrogative sentences.

Must I do it myself?


Obligation expressed by "must" refers to the present and future but in reported speech it

may refer to the present.


He said we mustn't invite them to dinner.


2. Prohibition (only in negative sentences) - нельзя, не разрешается.

Children mustn't play with matches.

Cars mustn't be parked in front of the gate.


3. Emphatic advice


You must stop worrying about him.

You mustn't cry.


This meaning is found in affirmative and negative sentences and it is closely connected with the two above-mentioned meaning.



"Must" followed by any form of the infinitive may express:

1. Supposition bordering on assurance or near certainty. It corresponds to the Russian "должно быть, очевидно, вероятно, скорее всего".


Не must be ill. Не looks so pale.

She must be writing a letter.


All forms of the infinitive are possible here but the indefinite infinitive is used only with stative verbs.


She must be at home now.

She must be reading a lot.


If "must" is followed by the simple infinitive of dynamic verbs, it expresses obligation not probability.


You must stay at home.


With stative verbs the simple infinitive is used to express supposition.


If the action refers to the past the perfect infinitive or perfect continuous infinitive is used after "must".

We must have met somewhere.

They must have been working all the time.


Must expressing supposition or probability is not used:

1. With reference to the future.

Instead of the modal verb the adverbs "probably", "evidently", "to be sure", "to be



He will probably tell you everything.

He is sure to tell you everything.


2. The negation "not" can't be used after "must" intins meaning.

The negative pronouns (nobody, nothing), negative adverbs (never), negative prefixes

(inexperienced, misunderstanding) or the verb "to fail" are used instead of it.


Our letter must have never reaching him.

There must be nobody at home.

He must have learned nothing.

She must have failed to leave.

No one must have seen him there.


As a modal verb "to have to" differs from the others that it is not defective. It can have the category of person and number and all tense-aspect forms. It is followed by a "to-infinitive". It builds up its interrogative and negative forms with the help of the auxiliary verb "to do".


HAVE notional (to possess)

auxiliary (in perfect tenses)


to have + an infinitive a talk

(modal meaning) to have a walk

a bite


"To have + to-infinitive" is a modal construction which expresses circumstantial necessity.

to have to = to be obliged to

It is often rendered in Russian by means of "приходиться, вынужден" and shows that there is no other way out.


She is usually short of time so she has to go by car.


In the past tense "have to" indicates a fulfilled obligation.

We had to do it again (and we did it).


"Have to" replaces "must" where "must" can't be used - to express past necessity; to express a future obligation; to express absence of necessity.


"Have to" can be used only with the indefinite infinitive.


Have got to = have to, but it is more usual in the colloquial speech, especially in the negative and interrogative forms. It is used only in the Present Indefinite.


Have you got to get up early morning?

The negative and interrogative forms are formed without any auxiliary.


notional – I was in the garden.

to be auxiliary – He is playing. It was done.

semi-auxiliary (modal) –1 was to come at 5.


"To be to" as a modal verb is used in the Present and Past Indefinite tenses and expresses:

1. Prearranged necessity


Remember, that we are to meet at 5.

The metro station is to be built in this district.

When am I to come?


NOTE: When the verb "to be" in its past form is followed by a perfect infinitive it shows that a planned action didn't take place.


He was to have come yesterday (that means that he didn't come).


2. Commands, orders, instructions.


You are to leave me alone.

He is to stay here until I return.


In negative sentences it expresses strict prohibition.

You are not to do that.

You are not to smoke here.


When used in questions it expresses asking for instruction.

What am I to do further?

Where am I to go? (Куда же мне деваться?)


3. Something unavoidable in the future which corresponds to the Russian "суждено","предстоит".


She was to become his wife.

He is to be a musician.

He was never to see her again.

It was not to be.


Sometimes but only in combination with the passive infinitive it may express possibility.


Nothing was to be seen.

Nothing could be seen.




a full-meaning notional verb –1 don't need your help.


modal verb followed by an infinitive.


When "need" is used in the meaning of "to be in want of" it is treated as a normal verb.


He needs a new pair of shoes.


The modal verb "need" may be used either as a defective or as a regular verb.

"Need" is mostly used in negative and interrogative sentences.

"Need" as a defective verb has only one form, which is the Present Indefinite. In reported speech it remains unchanged. It is followed by the infinitive without "to".

"Need" in negative sentences expresses absence of necessity.

When reference is made to the present or future it is followed by the simple infinitive.


You needn't do it now.

You needn't be afraid of me.


The negation is not always combined with the verb, but may be expressed by other parts of the sentence.


I don't think we need tell him this.

I need hardly say that I agree with you.


In questions "need" is used when there is a strong element of negation or doubt or when the speaker expects a negative answer.


Need I go there? (hoping for the negative answer)

I wonder if I need go there. (statement of doubt)


The defective form of "need" forms its negative and interrogative constructions without any auxiliaries.

NOTE: Sometimes in the literary language it is used with the auxiliary "do" and followed by the infinitive with "to".


We need to be careful.

He didn’t need to be told twice.


In negative statements "need" followed by a perfect infinitive shows that the action was done though it was unnecessary.


You needn't have got up so early. (He надо было, зря...)

We needn't have waited for her. (Можно было и не ждать, а мы ждали).


NOTE: "didn't have + indefinite infinitive" shows that the action didn't take place because of some circumstances (He надо было, не пришлось)



The verb "ought to" has only one form. It is always followed by the infinitive with the particle "to".


"Ought to" has the following meanings:

1. Moral duty; moral obligation; friendly advice or recommendation.


You ought to support your family.

You ought to look after your children better.

You ought to consult the doctor.

(вы должны, вам следует)


When reference is made to the past "ought to" is followed by the perfect infinitive.


2. When "ought to" is followed by the perfect infinitive it expresses criticism of a past


He ought to have tried to speak to her.

You ought to have done it.

(a desirable action was not carried out, а ты этого не сделал)

I'm sorry. I oughtn‘t to have said it. (а я сказал)


It may also be viewed as a reproach.


3. "Ought to" may also express friendly advice, recommendation. In this case "ought to" and "should" are synonyms. They correspond to the Russian "следует".


You ought to consult the doctor.


4. Supposition implying strong probability.

The new house ought to be very comfortable.


The use of "ought to" in this case is not very common as this meaning is normally rendered by must".


When "shall" is a modal verb it always combines its modal meaning with the function of an auxiliary verb, that is, it is always used with reference to the future. It is mostly used with the second and third person and has a strong stress. In Russian it is rendered by emphatic intonation.

It may express:

1. Compulsion (принуждение) or order.
You shall do it immediately.

It shall be done as you wish. He shall do as I say.

2. Threat, warning or promise.
You shall be sorry for it.

If you sit here you shall catch cold.

If you pass your exam you shall have a new bicycle.

3. When used in question it expresses asking for instructions. It is used with the first and third persons.

Shall I read?

Shall he answer the telephone?

Shall I get you a chair?

"Shall" is used only with the simple infinitive.


Historically "should" was the past form of "shall" and both the forms expressed obligation. But in present-day English they have developed different meanings and are treated as two different verbs.

"Should" followed by the indefinite infinitive is used with reference to the present of future and remains unchanged in reported speech.

"Should" has the following meanings:

1. Advice, recommendation.

As well as "ought" it expresses desirable, proper action, and corresponds to the Russian "следует, следовало бы".


You should be more careful.

You should take this medicine twice a day.


The continuous infinitive is also possible here.

You shouldn’t 't be sitting in the sun.


2. Criticism of a past action but only in combination with a perfect infinitive


You should have done it (but you didn’t).

They shouldn't have left the child alone (but they did).


"Should" and "ought" are interchangeable here.


Emotional "Should"

3. In modern English "should" is often used with emotional colouring to express indignation, surprise, disappointment and other feelings.

It is observed in:

a) interrogative sentences beginning with "why", "what", "how".

Why should I do it (ради чего, с какой стати)?

How should I know (почем я знаю) ?

What on earth should I... ( какого черта)?


b) interrogative and exclamatory sentences with the construction "who (whom)... but" to
express unexpected actions:

Returning home last night whom should I meetbut cousin Jack himself.


c) exclamatory sentences after the words expressing various feelings, that is in
emotionally coloured sentences.

Just imagine that he should act so!

To think that it should come to this. - Только подумать до чего дошло дело!


d) in object clauses after expressions of regret, surprise:


I'm sorry that he should be so unreasonable.


e) in attributive clauses beginning with “why” after the noun "reason".


I don't see any reason why he shouldn’t 't be happy.


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