Modal Verbs

03 December 2014 by Diane





Can (not)

She can play the piano.

Can I borrow your car?

Can you help me?


Asking for permission / Request

Could (not)

Could I leave a little early today?

Could you say it again more slowly?

We could try to fix it ourselves.

I think that lying to him could cause a fight.

I could run around all day when I was young.

Asking for permission



Future possibility

Past ability

May (not)

May I have another cup of coffee?

She may be sick today.

She may lose all of her money at the casino.

Asking for permission

Present possibility/prediction

Future possibility/prediction

Might (not)

They might be eating their dinner now.

They might give us a 10% discount.

Present possibility/prediction

Future possibility/prediction

Must (not)

You must finish the project before Friday.

She must be tired-- she only slept 4 hours last night.

Necessity / Obligation

Strong prediction

Have to

You have to go to class to get good grades.

Necessity / Obligation

Shall (not)

(British English)

Shall I help you with your luggage?

Shall we leave at 2:30pm?



Ought to

We ought to hire a professional writer.

Giving advice

Should (not)

You should eat more fruits and vegetables.

Giving advice

Would (not)

Would you mind if I smoked here?

Would you like to play golf this Friday?

Would you prefer tea or coffee?

If I won the lottery, I would buy a house!
He said that he would come to the party, but he didn’t.

Asking for permission




Past tense of WILL


Modals do not change form.

Modals are always followed by the base verb, or bare infinitive

You can use “not” to make modal verbs negative.

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28 November 2014 by Diane

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Modals of Obligation

25 November 2014 by Diane

Subject Verb Agreement

24 November 2014 by Diane


Use “there is” for one item (singular nouns).  

Use “there is” for non-countable items.  

Use “there are” for many items (plural nouns).

When two subjects are connected by either...or, neither...nor, and not only...but also, the subject which is closest to the verb determines whether the verb is singular or plural.

Ex. Either the teacher or the student has the book.

Either the teacher or the students have the book.

Neither the boy nor the girl is here.

Neither the boy nor the girls are here.

Not only John but also Mary wants to come.

Not only John but also his parents want to come.

The verb is determined by the noun or pronoun which follows the expression of quantity.

Ex. Some of the book is good.                           Some of the books are good.

A lot of the equipment is new.                        A lot of my friends are here.

All of it is mine.                                                      All of them are here.

Quantities or measurements of time, money, distance, weight usually take singular verbs.

ex. Two cups is enough coffee for the day!

Four hours is not enough sleep for me.

Every and each require singular verbs.

ex. Every student has been invited.

Every man, woman, and child needs food and water.

Each book and magazine in the library is listed on the computer.

Each of the books is listed on the computer.

[one of + plural noun + singular verb]
ex. One of my friends needs some help. 

[Subjects with none of, either of, and neither of are considered singular in formal English; but in spoken English (and informal writing) plural verbs are frequently used.]

ex. None of those reasons is / are true.

Either of those outfits is /are appropriate.

Neither one of the boys is /are here.

[Words ending in -ics take singular verbs when they refer to a general area of study. Some words ending in -ics take plural verbs if they refer to a particular situation.]
ex. Statistics was the hardest class I have ever taken.
Statistics show that crime has increased.

[Pronouns ending in -one, -body, or -thing are singular.*]

ex. Everyone is invited to the party.

Somebody is calling.

Nothing has been decided yet.


The expression "more than one" (oddly enough) takes a singular verb:

ex. More than one student has failed the test.


If your sentence compounds a positive and a negative subject and one is plural, the other singular, the verb should agree with the positive subject.

ex. The teachers, except for the science teacher, have voted to shorten the school day.

It was his appearance, not his character, that has changed.


Sometimes the subject is separated from the verb by words such as along with, as well as, besides, or not. Ignore these expressions when determining whether to use a singular or plural verb.

ex. The president, along with his family, is expected to come.

Excitement, as well as fear, is the cause of her shaking.



With words that indicate portions—percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all…use the noun in your of phrase to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the object is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.

ex.  Ten percent of the pie is gone.

Eighty percent of the pies have been eaten.


The expression the number is followed by a singular verb while the expression a number is followed by a plural verb.

ex. The number of students in the class is twenty-eight.

A number of people have tried to solve the problem.

Present simple or Present continuous?

12 November 2014 by Diane

Present simple  used to talk about things in general or routines

Ex. I speak English.

Tom plays tennis every Saturday.


Present continuous – used to talk about something happening AT THE MOMENT

Ex. The water is boiling.  Can you turn it off?

Listen to those people.  What language are they speaking?

What are you doing?


Stative Verbs - Some verbs are used only in simple tenses.   For example, we don’t say, “I am knowing…”  Instead, we say “I know…”  

Here is a list of stative verbs, or verbs that are not usually used in the continuous form:


want                    like                      belong                 know                   suppose                           remember

need                    love                     see                      realize                 mean                               forget

prefer                  hate                     hear                     believe                understand                      seem

smell                   taste                    see                      feel                      have (meaning “possess”)


Ex. Do you like Spain?

He doesn’t understand the problem.

That car belongs to him.

Do you have a car?