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5.2: Verbs (Part 2)

  • Page ID
    6901
  • Modal Auxiliaries

    Modal auxiliaries are helping verbs that are used only with a main verb to help express mood.

    The following is the basic formula for using a modal auxiliary:

    Subject + modal auxiliary + main verb
    James   may   call

    There are ten main modal auxiliaries in English.

    Table of Modal Auxiliaries
    Modal Auxiliary Use Modal Auxiliary + Main Verb
    can Expresses an ability or possibility
    1. I can lift this forty-pound box. (ability)
    2. We can embrace green sources of energy. (possibility)
    could Expresses an ability in the past; a present possibility; a past or future permission
    1. I could beat you at chess when we were kids. (past ability)
    2. We could bake a pie! (present possibility)
    3. Could we pick some flowers from the garden? (future permission)
    may Expresses uncertain future action; permission; ask a yes-no question
    1. I may attend the concert. (uncertain future action)
    2. You may begin the exam. (permission)
    3. May I attend the concert? (yesno questions)
    might Expresses uncertain future action
    1. I might attend the concert (uncertain future action—same as may)
    shall Expresses intended future action
    1. I shall go to the opera. (intended future action)
    should Expresses obligation; ask if an obligation exists
    1. I should mail my RSVP. (obligation, same as ought to)
    2. Should I call my mother? (asking if an obligation exists)
    will Expresses intended future action; ask a favor; ask for information
    1. I will get an A in this class. (intended future action)
    2. Will you buy me some chocolate? (favor)
    3. Will you be finished soon? (information)
    would States a preference; request a choice politely; explain an action; introduce habitual past actions
    1. I would like the steak, please. (preference)
    2. Would you like to have breakfast in bed? (request a choice politely)
    3. I would go with you if I didn’t have to babysit tonight. (explain an action)
    4. He would write to me every week when we were dating. (habitual past action)
    must Expresses obligation We must be on time for class.
    ought to Expresses obligation I ought to mail my RSVP. (obligation, same as may)

    tip

    Use the following format to form a yes-no question with a modal auxiliary:

    Modal auxiliary + subject + main verb
    Should   I   drive?

     Be aware of these four common errors when using modal auxiliaries:

    1. Using an infinitive instead of a base verb after a modal
      1. Incorrect: I can to move this heavy table.
      2. Correct: I can move this heavy table.
    2. Using a gerund instead of a base verb after a modal
      1. Incorrect: I could moving to the United States.
      2. Correct: I could move to the United States.
    3. Using two modals in a row
      1. Incorrect: I should must renew my passport.
      2. Correct: I must renew my passport.
      3. Correct: I should renew my passport.
    4. Leaving out a modal
      1. Incorrect: I renew my passport.
      2. Correct: I must renew my passport.

    Exercise 18

    Edit the following paragraph by correcting the common modal auxiliary errors.

    I may to go to France on vacation next summer. I shall might visit the Palace of Versailles. I will to drive around the countryside. I could imagining myself living there; however, I will not moved to France because my family should miss me very much.

    Modals with Present Perfect Verbs

    In the previous section, we defined the present perfect verb tense as describing a continuing situation or something that has just happened. Remember, when a sentence contains a modal auxiliary before the verb, the helping verb is always have.

    Be aware of the following common errors when using modal auxiliaries in conditional statements:

    Using had instead of have

    Incorrect: Jamie would had attended the party, but he was sick.

    Correct: Jamie would have attended the party, but he was sick.

    Leaving out have

    Incorrect: Jamie would attended the party, but he was sick.

    Correct: Jamie would have attended the party, but he was sick.

    key takeaways

    • The basic formula for using a modal auxiliary is: subject + modal auxiliary + main verb in the base form.
    • There are ten main modal auxiliaries in English: can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must, and ought to.
    • The four common types of errors when using modals include the following: using an infinitive instead of a base verb after a modal, using a gerund instead of a base verb after a modal, using two modals in a row, and leaving out a modal.
    • In the present perfect tense, when a sentence has a modal auxiliary before the verb, the helping verb is always have.
    • The two common errors when using modals in the present perfect tense include using had instead of have and leaving out have.

    Phrasal Verbs

    Prepositions often follow verbs to create expressions with distinct meanings. These expressions are sometimes called prepositional verbs or phrasal verbs. It is important to remember that these expressions cannot be separated.

    Verb + Preposition Meaning Example
    agree with to agree with something or someone My husband always agrees with me.
    apologize for to express regret for something, to say sorry about something I apologize for being late.
    believe in to have a firm conviction in something; to believe in the existence of something I believe in educating the world’s women.
    care about to think that someone or something is important I care about the health of our oceans.
    hear about to be told about something or someone I heard about the teachers’ strike.
    look after to watch or to protect someone or something Will you look after my dog while I am on vacation?
    talk about to discuss something We will talk about the importance of recycling.
    speak to, with t to talk to/with someone I will speak to his teacher tomorrow.
    wait for to await the arrival of someone or something I will wait for my package to arrive.

    tip

    It is a good idea to memorize these combinations of verbs plus prepositions. Write them down in a notebook along with the definition and practice using them when you speak.

    Subject-Verb Agreement

    Subject-verb agreement is one of the most common errors that people make. Having a solid understanding of this concept is critical when making a good impression, and it will help ensure that your ideas are communicated clearly.

    Basic Agreement

    Agreement in speech and in writing refers to the proper grammatical match between words and phrases. Parts of sentences must agree, or correspond with other parts, in number, person, case, and gender.

    1. Number. All parts must match in singular or plural forms.
    2. Person. All parts must match in first person (I), second person (you), or third person (he, she, it, they) forms.
    3. Case. All parts must match in subjective (I, you, he, she, it, they, we), objective (me, her, him, them, us), or possessive (my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, their, theirs, our, ours) forms.
    4. Gender. All parts must match in male or female forms.

    Subject-verb agreement describes the proper match between subjects and verbs.

    Because subjects and verbs are either singular or plural, the subject of a sentence and the verb of a sentence must agree with each other in number. That is, a singular subject belongs with a singular verb form, and a plural subject belongs with a plural verb form.

    Regular Verbs

    Regular verbs follow a predictable pattern. For example, in the third person singular, regular verbs always end in -s. Other forms of regular verbs do not end in –s.

      Singular Form Plural Form
    First Person I live. We live.
    Second Person You live. You live.
    Third Person He/She/It lives. They live.

    tip

    Add an -es to the third person singular form of regular verbs that end in -sh,-x, -ch, and -s. (I wish/He wishes, I fix/She fixes, I watch/It watches, I kiss/He kisses.) In the singular form, the pronoun you refers to one person. In the plural form, the pronoun you refers to a group of people, such as a team. Many singular subjects can be made plural by adding an -s. Most regular verbs in the present tense end with an -s in the third person singular. This does not make the verbs plural.

    Irregular Verbs

    Not all verbs follow a predictable pattern. These verbs are called irregular verbs. Some of the most common irregular verbs are be, have, and do. Learn the forms of these verbs in the present tense to avoid errors in subject-verb agreement. 

    Be
      Singular Form Plural Form
    First Person I am. We are.
    Second Person You are. You are.
    Third Person He/She/It is. They are.
    Have
      Singular Form Plural Form
    First Person I have. We have.
    Second Person You have. You have.
    Third Person He/She/It have. They have.
    Do
      Singular Form Plural Form
    First Person I do. We do.
    Second Person You do. You do.
    Third Person He/She/It does. They do.

    Errors in Subject-Verb Agreement

    Errors in subject-verb agreement may occur when

    • a sentence contains a compound subject;
    • the subject of the sentence is separate from the verb;
    • the subject of the sentence is an indefinite pronoun, such as anyone or everyone;
    • the subject of the sentence is a collective noun, such as team or organization;
    • the subject appears after the verb.

    Recognizing the sources of common errors in subject-verb agreement will help you avoid these errors in your writing. This section covers the subject-verb agreement errors in more detail.

    Compound Subjects

    A compound subject is formed by two or more nouns and the coordinating conjunctions and, or, or nor. A compound subject can be made of singular subjects, plural subjects, or a combination of singular and plural subjects.

    • Compound subjects combined with and take a plural verb form.
    • Compound subjects combined with or and nor are treated separately. The verb must agree with the subject that is nearest to the verb.

    tip

    If you can substitute the word “they” for the compound subject, then the sentence takes the third person plural verb form.

    Intervening Phrases or Clauses

    As you read or write, you may come across a sentence that contains a phrase or clause that separates the subject from the verb. Often, prepositional phrases or dependent clauses add more information to the sentence and appear between the subject and the verb. However, the subject and the verb must still agree.

    If you have trouble finding the subject and verb, cross out or ignore the phrases and clauses that begin with prepositions or dependent words. The subject of a sentence will never be in a prepositional phrase or dependent clause.

    Indefinite Pronouns

    When an indefinite pronoun serves as the subject of a sentence, you will often use a singular verb form. However, keep in mind that exceptions arise. Some indefinite pronouns may require a plural verb form. To determine whether to use a singular or plural verb with an indefinite pronoun, consider the noun that the pronoun would refer to. If the noun is plural, then use a plural verb with the indefinite pronoun.

    Indefinite Pronouns that Always Take a Singular Verb Indefinite Pronouns that can Take a Singular or Plural Verb

    anybody, anyone, anything

    each, everybody, everyone, everything

    all (Examples: All of the water has evaporated. All of the apples are ripe.

    nobody, no one, none, nothing

    somebody, someone, something

    some (Examples: Some of the money was stolen. Some of the books were stolen.

    Collective Nouns

    Because collective nouns are counted as one, they are singular and require a singular verb.

    Example \(\PageIndex{22}\):

    The class respects the teacher

    The Subject Follows the Verb

    You may encounter sentences in which the subject comes after the verb instead of before the verb. To ensure proper subject-verb agreement, you must correctly identify the subject and the verb. 

    Example \(\PageIndex{23}\):

    Somewhere deep in the woods reigns the king of the elves

     In this example the verb (reigns) comes before the singular subject (king).

    Here or There

    In sentences that begin with here or there, the subject follows the verb. If you have trouble identifying the subject and the verb in sentences that start with here or there, it may help to reverse the order of the sentence so the subject comes first.

    Example \(\PageIndex{24}\):

    There were many athletes training in the gym.

    In this example the verb is were and the subject is athletes. (Note: training is not the verb of this sentence. training in the gym is a participial phrase. See Components of a Sentence.)

    Questions

    Many questions are formed with helping verbs whose form must agree in number with the subject:

    Example \(\PageIndex{25}\):

    Are you going to the party tonight? Answer: Yes, I am going to the party.

     The verb tense used in the question is present progressive (are going), and the subject (you) is placed after the helping verb are but before the present participle going.

    Example \(\PageIndex{26}\):

    Does your car run? Answer: Yes, my car runs.

    In this example, notice that the s ending for the singular subject (car) appears at the end of the helping verb does in the question. In the answer to the question, the s ending is attached to the verb run, and the helping verb is not used.

    tip

    If you have trouble finding the subject and the verb in questions, try answering the question being asked.

    Exercise 19

    Correct the errors in subject-verb agreement in the following sentences. If there are no errors in subject-verb agreement, write OK. Copy the corrected sentence or the word OK on your own sheet of notebook paper.

    1. My dog and cats chases each other all the time.
      ________________________________________________________________
    2. The books that are in my library is the best I have ever read.
      ________________________________________________________________
    3. Everyone are going to the concert except me.
      ________________________________________________________________
    4. My family are moving to California.
      ________________________________________________________________
    5. Here is the lake I told you about.
      ________________________________________________________________
    6. There is the newspapers I was supposed to deliver.
      ________________________________________________________________
    7. Which room is bigger?
      ________________________________________________________________
    8. When are the movie going to start?
      ________________________________________________________________
    9. My sister and brother cleans up after themselves.
      ________________________________________________________________
    10. Some of the clothes is packed away in the attic.
      ________________________________________________________________

    Exercise 20

    Correct the errors in subject-verb agreement in the following paragraph.

    Dear Hiring Manager,

    I feels that I am the ideal candidate for the receptionist position at your company. I has three years of experience as a receptionist in a company that is similar to yours. My phone skills and written communication is excellent. These skills, and others that I have learned on the job, helps me understand that every person in a company helps make the business a success. At my current job, the team always say that I am very helpful. Everyone appreciate when I go the extra mile to get the job done right. My current employer and coworkers feels that I am an asset to the team. I is efficient and organized. Is there any other details about me that you would like to know? If so, please contact me. Here are my résumé. You can reach me by email or phone. I looks forward to speaking with you in person.

    Thanks,

    Felicia Fellini

    key takeaways

    • Parts of sentences must agree in number, person, case, and gender.
    • A verb must always agree with its subject in number. A singular subject requires a singular verb; a plural subject requires a plural verb.
    • Irregular verbs do not follow a predictable pattern in their singular and plural forms. Common irregular verbs are to be, to have, and to do.
    • A compound subject is formed when two or more nouns are joined by the words and, or, or nor.
    • In some sentences, the subject and verb may be separated by a phrase or clause, but the verb must still agree with the subject.
    • Some indefinite pronouns may require a plural verb form.
    • Collective nouns require singular verbs.
    • In sentences that begin with here and there, the subject follows the verb.
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