English Corner – Introduction to Action Verbs

When you are first getting the basic structure of English sentences, it’s important to base those same sentences around key verbs in the language that we use every day. Knowing what action verbs are as well as when and where to use them is key to becoming better at the beginning stages of your English language studies. In this blog post, we will cover what an action verb is, what it does, and we will cover numerous examples in the past and present tenses in order for students to understand how to use these ‘action verb’s and apply them to regular sentences.

I recommend taking these examples and studying them on your own by copying them or saying them out loud depending on if you are working on your speaking or writing. You can also have a friend, or a family member help you understand what these ‘action verbs’ mean by listening to the context of the sentences and how these different ‘action verbs’ are used. Please remember to memorize this type of English vocabulary because ‘action verbs’ are perhaps the most commonly used in English and will come up quite frequently in both the written and spoken form. Do your best to read through this article and then on your own time or in the comments section, please feel free to give a few examples of sentences that use ‘action verbs’ to complete them.

An action verb is a verb that expresses physical or mental action.

The action verb tells us what the subject of our clause or sentence is doing-physically or mentally.

Examples of Action Verbs:

To find an action verb:

1) Find the word in the sentence that is something someone or something can do.

2) Remember that the action can be physical or mental.

Examples of action verbs: think, smell, love, do, act, run, swim

Examples of action verbs in a sentence:

Maria walked to school.

‘Walked’ tells us what Maria was doing physically. (Past Tense)

Louie thought about the math problem.

‘Thought’ tells us what Louie was doing mentally. (Past Tense)

Below are some more examples of sentences that contain action verbs:

The action verbs are italicized.

1) Sam and Dave ride the bus to school each morning.

2) Jordan wants a horse for her birthday.

3) Isaac reads a chapter in his book each night.

4) Do you think it will rain today?

5) I believe that fairies, monsters, and unicorns are real.

6) Will you help me with my Math homework?

7) Please call your mom, Teresa.

8) The chicken strutted across the road without any fear.

————————————————————-

1) Are you doing your homework today?

2) McGregor and Mayweather will be fighting in the boxing match tomorrow.

3) She is singing a cover of a famous song by Ella Fitzgerald.

4) I’m smelling the flowers and their scent is divine.

5) She is acting in the top musical on Broadway these days.

6) Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

7) We are dancing to the beat of the Salsa music.

—————————————————————

Lastly, as you can see from the numerous examples I have provided, there are dozens of ‘action verbs’ in English but the ones I would like you to focus on primarily are the few that come up most frequently. From my experience as both an English as a Second Language teacher and a student of other languages, ‘action verbs’ like ‘run, go, swim, jump, walk, play, dance, sing’ are all vocabulary words that you should memorize first. Once you have those ‘action verbs’ under your belt, you will be able to move on to more complicated and longer ‘action verbs’ such as ‘think, strut, believe, smell, etc.’ In order to gain an advantage in getting better with English vocabulary, make sure to focus your efforts on ‘action verbs’ first before moving on to other vocabulary topics. 

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English Corner – Gerunds

In order to facilitate your grammar studies, it’s important to not overlook certain topics that are integral to boosting your knowledge of English grammar. ‘Gerunds’ is one of those key topics to really get a handle on and master because it will come up again and again in both your speaking and writing. While not the most complex topic, being able to understand the rules behind gerunds and memorizing them will put you ahead of other learners. ‘Gerunds’ is a topic that needs to be put into use over and over in order to be used proficiently.

The main thing to keep in mind with gerunds is not to overcomplicate what they are and what they are used for. Gerunds are simple verbs that end in –ing and that never changes regardless of which tense they are used in. –Ing can be added to verbs that are used in the present, past, and future tenses. Gerunds can also be utilized at the beginning, middle, and ending of sentences. These verbs + -ing are extremely versatile in their usage and it’s important to be aware of where they can be placed within sentences.

The key thing to keep in mind with a gerund word is that it used more like a noun than a verb or an adjective. Most students don’t remember that a verb that ends in –ing can also function as a present participle which is different than a gerund. Gerunds are not the same as present participles and the main difference between them is quite easy to remember. Gerunds are primarily used as more of a noun than a verb or adjective whereas present participles function more as exact verbs. Here are a few examples below as to how ‘gerunds’ are used as nouns in a regular sentence:

  1. I like dancing on a Saturday night.
  2. Playing video games is really fun.
  3. Singing in the rain is an underrated activity.

Gerunds have to be thought of nouns in verb form essentially. If you notice from the above examples, ‘gerund’ words can be used as the subject or object of a sentence. They can be placed at the beginning of the sentence to become the main subject or they can be the object of the sentence when the gerund comes after the main subject and the main verb as well.

While gerunds can mainly function as nouns, they can also be used as adjectives when they are right next to each other in the sentence structure.

  1. It was a night of ceaseless partying that went until the morning light.
  2. The careful building of the Statue of Liberty was a great French achievement.

It is important to note that you can often use gerunds after many different kinds of prepositions during a normal sentence. Gerunds often act as a substitute for noun words that you could be used right after prepositions. If you’re only using the base verb without the gerund (-ing), it won’t be grammatically correct. Here are a few examples of how to use the gerund after a few different prepositions:

  1. I will make breakfast before going into work today.
  2. Please do wash your hands after making dinner for our guests.
  3. We are used to driving on the right here in the United States.

It’s important to keep in mind that the gerund immediately follows each preposition directly after the preposition word is used in the sentence. There are dozens of prepositions used in the English language so it is important to keep in mind when to use the gerund after any kind of preposition comes up in a sentence.

Lastly, ‘gerunds’ can be used in a passive voice kind of sentence under multiple circumstances. In these kinds of cases, the gerund word would often come at the end of the sentence to reflect the action taking place. Here are a few examples of how you can use gerunds in a passive voice kind of sentence:

  1. I have three pairs of pants that need washing.
  2. The water cooler at my workplace needs replenishing.
  3. Your shirts are outside the house on the clothesline drying.

Please note that in sentences #1 and #2 from my examples that the main verb ‘need’ is used right before each gerund word. Without the main verb of ‘need’, it becomes much more difficult to express the action that is occurring at the end of the sentence.

Whatever use you find for the gerund, remember that the gerund comes up very often in both spoken and written English. You can use the gerund for multiple purposes including for nouns, adjectives, prepositions, passive voice, etc. The key thing to take away is that gerunds are very flexible in terms of their placement within a sentence. They can also be combined with various parts of speech to make your writing flow better and have more details. While gerunds are easy to form with ‘verb + -ing’, using them within the right context and in the right format is something that requires patience, practice, and repetition.

English Corner – Direct and Indirect Speech

One of the biggest challenges that the average English learner can face is not being able to interpret or understand the difference between direct and indirect speech. In order to really understand how they are formed and used, we first need to define these two terms and what they are supposed to represent.

Let us start first with what ‘direct speech’ is. Direct speech simply repeats or quotes the exact words that were spoken word for word without any hesitation. If you need to use direct speech in writing, in English, we use quotation marks (““) to highlight the words that the person spoke so as to not to give false representation. Direct speech in writing always goes within the two quotation marks so that there is no confusion as to who said what words. For direct speech, you can highlight what was said in the present but also what was said in the past. I have listed a few examples below that could be used both in the spoken and written contexts.

Examples

  1. Jimmy says that, “We will need to come home early tonight for dinner.”
  2. Katherine shouted, “There’s a bee in my hat! Help!”
  3. My mom asked me earlier, “What time will you be home? I said to her, “I don’t know yet, mom.”

It is important to keep in mind that direct speech can refer to both the past and the present which is a key difference from indirect speech as I will go on to discuss further.

Indirect speech, also known as reported speech, often discusses what was said or what was written about in the past and may not always be 100% in its accuracy so that is important to keep in mind. The words are often used in the past tense and there are different verbs used for indirect speech such as ‘say, tell, ask, hear, see.’ The word ‘that’ also comes in handy in sentences that use indirect speech and commas are not used as frequently as they are when it comes to direct speech.

Examples

  1. Janet said, “I spoke to him earlier. “ (Direct)                                                                      Janet said that she had spoken to him earlier. (Indirect)
  1. The principal stated to the class, “He will not accept bullying in this school.” (Direct)                                                                                                                                      The principal stated to the class that he will not accept bullying in this school. (Indirect)
  1. They told him that he would never receive a work promotion. (Indirect)
  2. We told the children yesterday that it was time for them to go to bed. (Indirect)

As you can see from a few of these examples, the word ‘that’ is a key part of differentiating indirect speech from direct speech. It is also common to see indirect speech or reported speech not using commas as well. If you weren’t actually there with the person who said those words or had heard it from someone else afterwards, you need to use indirect speech because it wouldn’t be right to quote someone when you weren’t actually there to hear them.

You don’t always have to use ‘that’ to make it indirect speech. However, you never really want to use commas in sentences with reported speech. Lastly, as mentioned before, indirect speech always refers to the past tense whereas direct speech can reflect the present as well since you can quote people’s words in real time as you’re there listening to them speak. That distinction is key to understanding one of the differences between direct and indirect speech because there are a few of them to be aware of.

There are certain verbs for the act of speaking in English that are going to come up in direct and especially indirect speech. You’ll want to use the verb ‘to say’ in a sentence where there is no indirect object. You can use the verb ‘to tell’ when you know who it is the person is talking to in the sentence and can verify who they are. When it comes to communicating with other people, the verbs ‘to speak’ and ‘to talk’ come in handy for both direct and indirect speech.

It’s important to note that the future tense cannot be used for direct speech since you would be basing those quotes or words on your own speculation rather than what you are hearing the person say or would have heard what the person said. Direct speech is for present and past tense while indirect speech is used for the past tense only.

While the tenses are either present or past tense when it comes to the direct speech or indirect speech verbs of ‘talk, speak, say, tell’, etc., it is important to keep in mind that the quoted parts of the sentence referencing the speaker can refer to the past, present, and the future. The direct and indirect speech verbs maintain their present or past tense format while the rest of the verbs can be past, present, or future tense depending upon the context. I have listed a few examples below to make this bit of information more easily digestible.

Examples

  1. Alice said, “She will go to the farmers market tomorrow to get some vegetables.” (Direct)
  2. I heard Alice say that she will go to the farmers market tomorrow to get some vegetables. (Indirect)
  3. Murphy says to the other teachers, “I don’t understand why my students didn’t pay attention in class yesterday. (Direct)
  4. The Math teacher told us how Mr. Murphy didn’t understand why his students weren’t paying attention in class yesterday. (Indirect)

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to indirect or reported speech are that modal verbs such as could, might, must, should, etc. do not change their actual form at all.

Examples

  • They explained to us that this tax bill could have negative consequences for the middle class.
  • We were told earlier that there might be consequences if we don’t finish all of the assigned homework by the end of the semester.

While there are many small differences between direct and indirect speech in English, the main thing to take away from this blog post is that how to phrase and quote speech is really important and must involve practice and effort. Being able to write stories or quote dialogue correctly are integral skills in the English language that can only come from being able to understand and use both direct and indirect speech. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know and best of luck in using this article to further your English language goals!

English Corner – Introduction to Basic Parts of Speech

When you’re first starting out with the English language, it is necessary to have an overview of the basic parts of speech. Each of these basic parts of speech play a critical role in developing your understanding of English vocabulary and grammar. In previous blog posts, I have already covered some of these parts of speech in-depth but I thought that it would be prudent to give an overview of each one and how they relate to one another.

There are eight basic parts of speech in total: Noun, Pronoun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, Prepositions, Conjunction, and Interjection. I would argue that the noun is the most commonly used part of speech while the interjection is the least commonly used one. Pronouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs are going to come up a lot in English with Prepositions and Conjunctions being less common but still important to know about.

1.) Noun: A word that describes a person, place, or thing. You can also name those things that can be seen or touched as well as those things that cannot be seen or touched. Nouns are present in 99% of sentences in the English language with very few exceptions which is why I have it as the #1 important part of speech to know. 

Examples
People: girls, boys, father
Places: library, garden, park
Things: trees, flowers, rocks
Ideas and actions: justice, liberty, democracy
Conditions and qualities: joy, illness, happiness

2.) Pronoun: A word that stands for nouns or for words that take the place of nouns. When it comes to pronouns, you’re referring to somebody or something indirectly whether it is he, she, or it. If you are referring to more than one person or thing, you would have to use the plural they, we, you in order to get your point across. Personal pronouns are also apart of this part of speech as they are also used regularly with him, her, etc. being very useful.

Examples:

Jonathan said he lost his bike yesterday.

Cynthia said that it is a very hot day today. 

Please let her know that we send our deepest thanks. 

3.) Verb: A word that expresses time while showing an action, a condition, or the fact that something exists. Any complete sentence will display or showcase a relevant action that will draw the reader’s attention to your writing. There are thousands of verbs in the English language but the most common are eat, drink, go, have, do, be, etc. 

Examples:

Writers write fictional stories in order to entertain their audience. 

Baseball players play the sport because they are passionate about it.

While millionaires have a lot of money to spend, they are not always happy about that.

4.) Adjective: A word that is used to describe a noun or give a noun or pronoun a specific meaning. The process of an adjective describing a word is modifying it to become more descriptive. Descriptive words help to give life to your sentence and make it stand out to the reader. Adjectives answer important questions about the details of a sentence such as:

-What kind?
– Which one?
– How many?
– How much?

Examples:

The newlywed couple lives in a beautiful house.

Thomas is a kind and caring teenager.

Martin’s family is very generous to the community.

5.) Adverb: A word that adds meaning to a sentence or modifies three different parts of speech such as a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. While not as common as the other parts of speech, adverbs are really useful when it comes to giving directions and providing needed details. One of the purposes of an adverb is to modify a verb and answer the question:

– Where? Fall below, Move aside, Step down
– When? Arrived today, Left early, Came late
– In what way? Happily ran, Will run abruptly
– To what extent? Partly understands, Dry completely, Fully accomplish

6.) Preposition: A word that relates to a noun or pronoun, which appears in relation to another part of speech in the sentence. These are usually small words but that carry a big impact in terms of forming the complete meaning of a sentence. It is vital to understand when and where different prepositions are used in order to not get confused about them. There are dozens of prepositions but I have listed below some of the most commonly used ones. Prepositions are one of the most important aspects of mastering English grammar.

While not its own part of speech, Compound Prepositions which are made up of more than one word are also important to memorize. Some examples include: According to, ahead of, because of, in place of, in regard to, prior to, out of. 

7.) Conjunction: A word that is used to connect other words or groups of words in a sentence. Conjunctions are essentially the glue that hold the sentences together with two related ideas being joined by words like and, because, for, or when, if, etc. Conjunctions usually come in the middle of a sentence but it is possible that they can come near the beginning of the sentence or towards the end as well. However, conjunction words rarely ever start the sentence or come at the very end of one. 

Examples

He is the chief of police and also is a part-time National Guardsman. 

This would be a good time for you to pull the lever. 

I would like that idea better if you backed up your claim with facts.

There are three main kinds of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, and subordinating conjunctions.

8.) Interjection: A word that expresses feeling or emotion; it functions independently of a sentence. Interjections are probably the most fun you can have in writing a sentence. You get to use fun, short words such as ah, ha, bravo, goodness, great, hurray, oh, oops, well, ugh, or whew which are all examples of words that express different feelings or emotions in the English language.

When it comes to where to place interjections within a sentence, there is a lot of flexibility about that. Usually, they come at the beginning or end of a sentence but it is up to the author entirely. Interjections are very important to use when writing dialogue for characters in a story or fictional novel. Interjections are the best part of speech to use in order to spice up your writing and make the reader engaged in the content. 

Examples:

Phew, I thought Mr. Jones was going to collect our Science homework today.”

Bravo! That performance by your orchestra was incredible tonight.”

Ugh…why did you go and lie to your parents? That was not a good idea.”

Overall, this is a good introduction to the eight parts of speech used in the English language. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see further posts that go more in depth about certain parts of speech that haven’t been covered yet such as adjectives and verbs. Until then, please be sure to use this blog post to improve your basic understanding of what parts of speech are and in which situations they are to be spoken or written. If you need to study the examples, please do so and I highly encourage readers to print out these notes to use in the future. Keep up the good work! 

English Corner – Regular and Irregular Verbs

Having a deep knowledge of verbs is crucial in order to develop one’s English vocabulary especially when it comes to differentiating between their varied forms. In order to understand verbs in general, we need to know that there are both ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’ verbs depending upon how their past tense and past participle are formed. It can be difficult to distinguish between the two types, as there is no set rule on what specifically makes a verb regular while another one can be irregular. In the case of this particular grammar topic, memorization and practice will make you better at using the correct form of the verb and to have a list of the verbs to study whenever possible.

When it comes to regular verbs, you should know that most verbs are regular verbs and that it’s very easy to change them to the past tense or the past participle. You’re simply going to add ‘-d’ or ‘-ed’ to the end of the verb in order to make it regular in the past tense. A good example of a regular verb would be ‘to play.’ In order to keep ‘play’ as a regular in either the past tense or in the past participle, you would add ‘-ed’ to the end of this word to make it ‘played.’

Example: “I played soccer with my friend Jeremy last night.”

Sometimes, you don’t even need to add –ed to the end of the regular verb but rather just the letter ‘-d’ to make it grammatically correct. A good example of that would be for the verb ‘to dance.’ In this case, you could add ‘-d’ to ‘dance’ to make it ‘danced’ for it to be a regular verb in the past tense.

Example: “We danced as a couple for the first time on our wedding night.”

Short List of Regular Verbs

Talk

Create

Walk

Want

Use

Help

Move

Call

Live

Follow

In each of these ten regular verbs, the simple past and the past participle are both the same and come with an –ed at the end of the verb. When it comes to a few select regular verbs, you may change a ‘y’ in the word for ‘-ied.’ For example, ‘try’ is the regular form of the verb in the present but to change it to the past tense, you need to drop the ‘y’ and add ‘ied’ to become ‘tried.’ Also, the regular verb ‘stop’ is an exception in that you add an additional ‘p’ after ‘stop’ as well as put on ‘-ed’ after the ‘p’ to create ‘stopped’ for the simple past and past participle. Regular verbs may have some variation to their formation but not as much when compared to irregular verbs.

Unfortunately, to the consternation to those English learners looking for an easy fix to the regular v. irregular verb debate, there is no magic wand or solution to know a rule to differentiate the two categories. It is known to most that there are over two hundred and fifty irregular verbs in the English language, which is a manageable amount for the average learner to remember since there are thousands of active verbs in the English language. While there is no strict formula or rule behind what separates a regular vs. an irregular verb, there are some fairly common forms of the irregular verb to be aware of.

Short List of Irregular Verbs

Arise

Become

Choose

Deal

Drink

Eat

Forget

Leave

Lose

Mean

Examples:

(Simple Present – Simple Past – Past Participle)

Break – Broke – Broken

Swim – Swam – Swum

Drive – Drove – Driven

Bear – Bore – Borne

Begin – Began – Begun

Examples:

  1. He broke his guitar strings from jamming too hard.
  2. Ben drove all through the night to get to his brother’s soccer game today in Chicago.
  3. Jackie swam for over ten miles to reach the final line of the triathlon competition.
  4. The Russian army bore the mass majority of military casualties during World War II for the allies.
  5. We began our day with a hearty breakfast before beginning the climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

When it comes to irregular verbs, there are three types of verbs that we can remember in terms of formation.

The first type is when the verb is the same for the simple present, simple past, and even the past participle. (Examples: put, hit, read)

Put – put – put, hit – hit – hit, read – read – read

The second type is when the verb is the same for two of the three grammar forms. (Examples: sit, keep, lend)

Sit – sat – sat, keep – kept – kept, lend – lent – lent

The third and last type is when the verb is formed directly for each of the three grammar tenses. (Examples: know – grow – freeze)

Know – knew – known, grow – grew – grown, freeze – froze – frozen

Regular and irregular verbs can be even trickier when you realize that a verb can be both regular and irregular at the same time. Now, while that isn’t very common, it can happen every now and then so it’s important to familiarize yourself with those few examples that can be both regular and irregular as a verb.

Examples:

Burn – burned – burned (regular)

Burn – burnt – burnt (irregular)

Learn – learned – learned (regular)

Learn – learnt – learnt (irregular)

Smell – smelled – smelled (regular)

Smell – smelt – smelt (irregular)

In the case of these verbs, the difference between what’s regular and irregular is the ending of the word. Instead of adding an ‘-ed’ to the simple past or the past participle, you can add an ‘-t’ to the verb to make it irregular.

Overall, the topic of regular and irregular verbs can cause some confusion to the average English learner. However, the best way to be better adept at this topic is to really study these grammar tables and to consult your dictionary as well. Building up your vocabulary by using these verbs in your sentences will help you better understand whether or not it is regular or irregular in terms of its’ usage in the past.

Having a list of both regular and irregular verbs is key in terms of mastering the usage of them. There are also only two hundred and fifty irregular verbs so with time and effort; you will be able to separate them out from the thousands of regular verbs in the English language. Patience, diligence, and a good dictionary will help you become proficient in learning and using both regular and irregular verbs.

English Corner – More Fun with Modals

In the last ‘English Corner’ post, I focused on introducing the topic of modals by beginning with ‘modals of ability.’ As I mentioned previously, there are different types of modals in the English language. We have already covered the modals of ability and permission so now this article will concentrate on those modals that deal with making suggestions, having obligations, seeking advice, going through with a decision, and getting an invitation. The modal verbs of must, shall, should, will, would are going to be highlighted in this article in terms of when to use them in sentences and how those sentences are to be structured.

For making suggestions, the modal verb of ‘shall’ can be used to offer up something to someone or to give advice to them. You can also use this auxiliary verb in the future tense if you plan on doing some action decisively. The modal ‘shall’ can be used both in the positive for and also be posed as a question.

Examples:

1) Shall I pick you up from your house at 8 pm tonight?

2) I shall travel to Morocco and Brazil in 2018.

Once again, it should be noted that ‘shall’ like other modals is to be used as an auxiliary verb in the sentence and often goes before the main verb like ‘travel’ or ‘pick up.’

When it comes to giving out advice or seeking it from somebody else, the modal verb of ‘should’ will come in handy for English learners. You can use ‘should’ at both the beginning of a sentence if it’s in the question form and towards the middle of the sentence after the subject word if you’re using it in the positive form. Should can also be used negatively when you change the word to ‘shouldn’t’ to express that modal in its’ negative form.

Examples:

1.) You should go to the doctor since you have a high fever.

2.) Should we wait for the presentation to end before leaving here?

3.) They shouldn’t have been rude to the doctor yesterday.

When you have an obligation that you simply can’t get out of or a duty to fulfill that cannot be delayed, the modal verb of ‘must’ is key to put in your sentences. Similar to other modal verbs, it is auxiliary and comes before the main verb in the sentence structure. You can also use ‘must’ in the form of a question as well.

Examples:

1.) He must do his homework by tomorrow.

2.) Must I bear this burden alone?

When it comes to making a firm decision to be carried out in the future, choosing the modal word of ‘will’ is a good choice. It is a definite verb that can be used as a question, a positive and a negative. To create the negative form, you simply have to change ‘will’ to ‘won’t’ after conjugating ‘will’ and ‘not’ together to form ‘won’t. When you use ‘will’, you’re not just making a decision but you’re also making a promise to someone that you shouldn’t break.

Examples:

  1. I will play football with you guys this weekend.
  2. Won’t you join us for dinner tonight?
  3. She will be so tired from the party that she won’t be able to study later.

As shown above in the third example, you can use both the positive and negative form of the modal ‘will’ in the same sentence, and the same modal can be used more than once in the same sentence too.

For the last modal ‘would’, you are going to want to use this one when it comes to seeking permission, giving a request, or extending an invitation to somebody. There are a couple of different uses for this last main modal verb but it’s important to keep in mind that it can be used in all forms including positive, negative, and question. As with the other modals, it is an auxiliary verb that will always come before the main verb in the sentence.

Examples:

  1. Would you join me at the birthday party Friday night?
  2. I would like to go home now if that is fine with you.
  3. We wouldn’t climb Mount Everest because it is so dangerous.

The modal verbs of must, shall, should, will, would are focused on the future tense and are very strong in terms of making suggestions or going through with a decision. In total, you now have a basis of understanding the nine main modal verbs. There are others in the English language but these nine words ‘can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would’ come up the most and are the most important to master.

English Corner – Introduction to Modals

There are many different kinds of modals to study but in this ‘English Corner’ blog post, we’re going to start out with an introduction dealing with the modals of ability. Modals of ability are the most common and the most important to master firstly. Modals are verbs usually and the ones that I am going to be focused on in this article are can, could, be able to, may, might.

Modal verbs act as auxiliary verbs in your average sentence and can express different ideas. These ideas include expressing one’s ability, one’s possibility, and sometimes necessity. Modal verbs often have more than one meaning and can be significant in a variety of ways. A simple form of a verb always follows a modal verb in a regular sentence as well.

Example:

  • Ben can do his homework.

The modal verb ‘can’ is followed by the simple form of the verb ‘to do’ followed by the object part, which refers to his homework.

An Introduction to Modals can be broken down into three separate parts: modals for ability, modals for possibility, and modals for permission. Each type of modals is unique in their own way but they each help to express oneself in some form or another.

For ‘Modals of Ability’, you can express your own ability or that of someone else by using the words ‘can, be able to, could’ in order to highlight your ability to do something.

Present Ability: I can speak three languages.

Negative Form: I cannot read this book.

Past Ability: Jack could play on the swings when he was a child but not anymore.

Negative Past Ability: Jane couldn’t go to the dance last night because she was sick.

In any regular sentence, the verb after the modal ‘can, could, be able to’ is always in the simple form and always follows the auxiliary (modal) verb. It’s important to note that the simple verb after the modal verb never changes either.

Examples:

-Ben can doing his homework. X

-Ben can to do his homework. X

-Ben can did his homework. X

All of these examples listed above give us the understanding we need to see that the simple form of the verb such as ‘to do’ never changes from its’ original intention. ‘Ben can do his homework’ is the only correct answer in this case.

In order to turn the ability modal into a question, it’s also quite easy to do. The form of the sentence should look like ‘modal verb + subject + main verb + object…? For any of the ability modals whether it’s can, could, etc., you can use them in the form of a question.

Examples:

  1. Can she play the flute?
  2. Could you go to the store to pick up some fruit?
  3. Are you able to do your homework tonight?

‘Able to’ is an exception in that as a modal of ability verb, the structure of the question form looks like: ‘to be’ + subject + able to + main verb + object…?’

For Modals of Possibility, it’s important to understand how to express ‘possibility’ in a sentence through showing what’s possible and what’s not possible for someone or something. The modals of possibility include ‘may, might, and could’ now and in the future. All of these three modals have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably regardless of the type of sentence.

Examples:

  • I might be late to the business meeting tomorrow.
  • You may want to re-take the exam next year.
  • You could get into college if you study harder.

Possibility cannot be expressed for the past but only for the present and the future when it comes to grammar.

For ‘Modals of Permission’, you can express ways to ask for or to give permission in a regular sentence. In order to create this modal sentence, we need to use the modals of ‘may, could, and can’, which are also apart of permission and ability modals. Permission modals are very polite and formal so it’s important to know how to write and verbally use them correctly in a sentence.

Examples:

  • May I go to the bathroom please?
  • Could I borrow your lawnmower today?
  • Can he have the last piece of chocolate cake?

For the main verb that comes after the subject and before the modal verb, it’s always going to be in its’ regular, simple form which never changes. When it comes to modals of permission, it’s important to remember that using ‘may’ especially at the beginning of the sentence is the most formal of the three options. Also, if someone were to answer you to grant that permission so you can go to the bathroom or to use your lawnmower, you can answer with:

-Yes, you may or No, you may not.

There’s also the possible positive or negative response to the modal question with ‘Yes, you can’ or ‘No, you can’t.’

While not the most popular grammar topic, there are many kinds of modals and knowing some of them especially those modals concerning permission, ability, and possibility is key to improving your English proficiency. This article is simply an introduction to modals and in the coming weeks and months; I hope to highlight other types of modals that are likely to come up in your grammar studies. “You can do it!”