Although modality is one of the richest and most intriguing domains that English grammar offers to researchers and linguists, its study has not preoccupied grammarians until recently. Out of the many that have studied the modal verbs, some names should be mentioned: traditional ones like Jespersen (1931) and Poutsma (1926); structuralists and transformationalists like Hoffman (1966) and Huddlestone (1971), McCawley (1971), Kartunnen (1972) etc. Being such an intriguing and rich domain for linguists makes it a real challenge for applied linguists, especially teachers. In the present paper, I propose to approach this field both from the perspective of ‘pure’ linguistics and from that of applied linguistics. This two-fold approach is justified, for, in order to tackle the methodological issues associated to modal verbs, one has to clearly understand the linguistic (syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic) aspects of modality. The theoretical part of the paper comprises three chapters dealing with: I. THE CONCEPT OF MODALITY, which is divided in three subparts: A. What is modality, which is an attempt to define modality through the filters of F.R. Palmer, Cornilescu and Chitoran, Downing and Locke, Elena Bara. Palmer views modality across languages, Cornilescu and Chitoran look at it in relation with logic, whereas for Downing and Locke, the crucial word is relation – i.e. the relation modality holds with reality. Other important defining notions are speaker and attitude, that are discussed by E. Bara. The modal expressions are also described in this subpart. B. Features of modality, which is an evaluation of the three characteristics of modality: ambiguity (the fact that most modal verbs have double meaning: epistemic and deontic),
subjectivity (implied by the fact that the modal verbs express an attitude of the speaker), scalarity (the fact that modal verbs are ordered on two scales: deontic and epistemic). C. Types of modality comprises the two basic types: deontic and epistemic. Etymology, definition and explanation concerning these terms are given. II. PRELIMINARIES ON THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS also contains three subparts: A. Grammatical status of the English modal verbs which is considered from two perspectives: syntactic (modal verbs are part of the inflection) and morphologic (they are regarded as semi-auxiliary verbs, i.e. in between auxiliary and full verbs). B. Characteristics of the English modal verbs refer to their syntactic traits ( they are followed by the bare infinitive, cannot occur in non-finite functions, have no –s form for 3rd person singular, present simple tense, their past forms can be used to refer to present and future time plus the so-called NICE properties). C. A classification of the English modal verbs ranges all of these verbs on a scale from central modals to main verbs. III. THE MEANINGS OF THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS are presented not in the old-fashioned way (a list of verbs and their meanings), but from a ‘functional’ point of view, i.e. the modal verbs are listed under two headings: epistemic and deontic that, in turn, have such subheadings as certainty, probability, possibility, etc The second part comes to counterbalance the first one with four chapters and is concerned mainly with teaching the modal verbs. CHAPTER IV contains two subparts:
A. Preliminary considerations on teaching grammar is designed to offer an answer to
the questions: Why should we learn grammar? and How should we learn it? A quite surprising distinction is made by H.G. Widdowson between the traditional way of teaching grammar (‘medium view’) and the (post)modern one (‘mediation view’).
B. What it takes to do the job? refers to what ingredients a grammar lesson needs in
order to be successful. V. TRADITIONAL APPROACH TO TEACHING THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS uses the framework of Grammar Translation Method in order to present four lessons for
four levels of proficiency: beginner, lower-intermediate, upper-intermediate, advanced. The materials that helped to the creation of the lesson plans can be found as photocopies at the end of the paper in annexes 1, 2, 3, and 4. A critical appraisal of the techniques and activities involved in the process of teaching can be found at the end of the chapter. VI. COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH TO TEACHING THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS shares the structure of the previous chapter but the framework is replaced by the Communicative Approach to Language Teaching. The gains and losses of this shift are evaluated at the end of the chapter. Besides that, at the very end of the chapter, the importance of language functions and their place in language teaching, and also the role of modal verbs within language functions, are shown as a source and motivation for the communicative approach to teaching the English modal verbs. VII. EXPECTED DIFFICULTIES WHEN TEACHING THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS uses as source samples of errors in testpapers belonging to Romanian students. The sources of these errors, that coincide with the expected difficulties, are linked to: ♦ The syntactic features of the modal verbs ♦ The meanings of the modal verbs ♦ Reference ♦ Substitution of a modal expression for a modal verb. Whoever is interested in overcoming these difficulties will find the solution in this last chapter of the current paper. Each type, meaning or use of the English modal verbs is illustrated with examples. Where necessary for the purpose of the analysis, a translation of the examples is provided. Another reason for the present study is the disparity in prominence of Romanian and English modality (the Romanian modal verbs being less prominent than their English counterpart), a fact which often causes difficulties in teaching the English modal verbs to Romanian students, and in understanding and acquiring the modal system of English. To conclude, this paper will provide an analysis and synthesis of the methodological aspects linked with the English modal verbs in terms of the what (what we teach when it comes to modal verbs) and the how (how we teach/should teach the English modal verbs).
CHAPTER ONE - THE CONCEPT OF MODALITY
To resume the idea in the end of the Introduction and to bridge it with the matter of this first chapter, I have to make a slight digression. The concept of intertextuality has come to designate for literary critics what people have always known or intuited: the fact that all the literature mankind has produced is actually a re-writing of some original scenarios, facts, events. From this perspective, it appears that no writer has brought any new contribution to the development of literature; moreover, this would entail that literary development is zero, and that we are, again from a literary point of view, right in the point where we started thousands of years ago. We, i.e. the Western civilization, started with the Bible. As its name etymologically shows, that was no ordinary book, but the Book, or rather a Book of books (βιβλα, pl. of βιβλιον a paper, scroll, letter, dim. of βιβλοζ the inner part of a papyrus, bark, book made of this bark). And if the Bible incorporates all the books that preceded it or were its contemporaries, or were written after its production, then we have to ask ourselves why we still read all these books, when it would be so simple to read only the Bible as the ultimate synthesis of everything that has ever been written. But we know by now that what distinguishes books from one another is not the what (i.e. what they deal with, the subject they narrate or approach), but the how (i.e. the way the subject is narrated or approached, the perspective). Modality is central to the how of the history, of literature, of our civilization. And the how is central to defining the concept of modality. How we teach the concept of modality may have a great impact on our students, and may help them or not in understanding and communicating in real-life situations. That is why it is important for a teacher of English to possess and clearly understand himself/herself the English modal verbs on which this paper solely focuses out of all the expressions of modality.
A. What is modality? In his book Mood and Modality, F.R. Palmer tries to give a comprehensive definition of modality; he approaches modality across languages. His argument is that, ‘although there appears to be considerable variation and no one-to-one correspondence across languages, it may be that there is some basic or ‘prototypical’ feature, that is, in essence, the same for all languages’. But throughout his study, F.R. Palmer will come to realize that, despite the fact that there is evidence that different languages have a great deal in common, modality evinces great variation in meaning across languages and it lacks a clear, basic feature. The notion of ‘prototypicality’, taken over by Palmer from Hopper and Thompson, is difficult, if not impossible, to apply. Even at the formal grammatical level, grammaticalization is a matter of degree, of ‘more or less’ rather than ‘yes or no’. Take for instance the modal verbs of French, which are far less easily distinguished from other verbs than are the modal verbs of English, whose grammatical status is not seriously in doubt. Palmer explains that this situation is only to be expected if it is assumed that a modal system (or any other grammatical system) will develop gradually over time, and at one point in time will have reached a particular stage of development and so show a particular degree of grammaticalization. A good example of this is the creation of the modal verbs in English, which involved the gradual recategorization of what were previously main verbs, as portrayed by Plank (1984). Passing over the various difficulties that a researcher stumbles into when trying to give a thorough account of modality, the definition emerges out of the distinction which can be made in a sentence between the modal and propositional elements, between modality and proposition. This distinction can be found in Jespersen’s studies (which Palmer quotes), where he talked about the ‘content of a sentence’ as different from the speaker’s attitude or opinion. Palmer draws a parallel between this distinction and that of locutionary act and illocutionary act as proposed by Austin (1962:98). In the locutionary act we are ‘saying something’, while in the illocutionary act we are ‘doing something’ – answering a question, announcing a verdict, giving a warning or making a promise. These ideas are at the basis of the speech acts theory. Palmer chooses to discuss only what he calls ‘main clause modality’, because complement clauses involving many different lexical items are excluded on semantic grounds. They
would go beyond the general notions that are plausibly called modals. Main clause modality, if it is expressed grammatically, is almost by definition, marked by a fairly simple element within the sentence. The presence of a modal marker or the change of one or another does not usually greatly alter the structure of a sentence. If Palmer chose to look at the notion on modality across languages, A.Cornilescu and D.Chitoran, in their Elements of English Sentence Semantics, view modality in relationship with logic. They take over Reacher’s definition of modalities as operators, since they operate on propositions and yield propositions: ‘when a proposition is made subject to some qualification of such a kind that the entire resulting context is itself once again a proposition, then this qualification is said to represent a modality to which the original proposition is subject.’ In order to explain the meaning of modality, they resort to the concept of ‘possible world’ which was devised by Leibniz. It occurs in two contexts: 1. Leibniz’s theory of the actual – the actual world is the best of all worlds 2. Something, some fact is necessary if it is true in all possible worlds. The latter theory influences and explains the modal system in the sense that, in understanding a sentence containing a simple modal (e.g. She may be right.), we conceive a plausible alternative course of events and say that she is right in that situation. If we take into consideration an example which does not contain a modal like She is right, then we are saying that in any situation where physical and logical laws are observed, she is right. The latter example illustrates logical necessity. According to this semantic analysis, understanding the attribution of necessity or possibility (the former example) to a proposition turns on understanding which possible worlds are ‘alternatives’ to it. In the case of necessity or possibility, these alternatives to a given world are simply those possible worlds that could have been realised instead of the given world. Possibility in a given world is therefore equivalent to truth in at least one of the alternatives to the given world, and necessity means truth in all of them. The conclusion drawn by the two authors is that ‘ attribution of propositional attitudes in a given world can be paraphrased in terms of corresponding alternatives to that world.’
A very similar view is expressed by Perkins, quoted by I. Stefanescu: ‘To put it quite simply, it would appear that such notions are conceptually grounded in the fact that human being often think and believe as though things might be, or might have been other than they actually are (or were). Such a world view appears to constitute an essential part of the fabric of our everyday lives: the fact that it is raining, that the car has broken down and that I am late for work does not prevent me from imagining myself arriving at work in time, in accordance with my contractual obligations, in a quietly purring car in brilliant sunshine.’ Using modalities means in fact talking about something other than the actual state of affairs, about what is virtual, conceivable, although not tangible or plausible. But what is virtual in our world can be real in other possible worlds, if we believe there are such possible worlds. When discussing about and resorting to possible worlds, we do that in as much they are related to and influence our world. With Cornilescu and Chitoran, I have already entered the semantics of modality. As a semantic category, modality covers such notions as possibility, probability, necessity, volition, obligation, permission. These are the basic modalities. In order to understand these notions, we have to consider the following: when we make an assertion such as George W. Bush is the president of the USA we as speakers, express a proposition and, at the same time commit ourselves to the truth of that proposition. That is we know the truth of such an assertion. For this reason, an utterance such as George W. Bush is the president of the USA but I don’t believe it is semantically unacceptable since the second part contradicts the categorical assertion expressed in the first. If, on the other hand, we say X may be/can’t be/must be the president of the USA we are not committing ourselves wholeheartedly to the truth of the proposition. In other words, any of these sentences is not a categorical assertion, but the speakers modify their commitment to some degree by expressing a judgement or assessment of the truth of the situation. This is an important choice which faces speakers every time they formulate a declarative clause: to make a categorical statement or to express less than total commitment by modalising. A different kind of modification is made when we intervene directly in the speech event itself, by saying, for example, I must leave now, You’d better come too, The rest of you can stay. Here the speaker makes use of modal expressions to impose an obligation, to prohibit, to express permission or consent to the action in question.
The projection of any of these notions onto the content of any proposition indicates that the speaker is presenting this content not as a simple assertion of fact, but coloured rather by personal attitude or intervention. According to Angela Downing and Philipe Locke, ‘modality is the category by which speakers express attitudes towards the event contained in the proposition’. While Palmer took into consideration various aspects of a possible definition of modality, these authors clearly state its syntactic status: that of a category, just like that of number, determination (in the case of the noun), or those of aspect and tense (in the case of the verb). It is important to note that all modal expressions are less categorical than a plain declarative. For this reason modality is said to express a relation to reality, whereas an unmodalised declarative treats the problem as reality. Now, we can see why I insisted so much, in the beginning of this chapter, on the importance and prevalence of the ‘how’ in our culture and civilization, regarding it as closely related to the notion of modality. Since I am trying to deal with the general concept of modality, although, as the title of this paper shows, only the modal verbs make the object of the present study, I find it useful to list the modal expressions. For most of people, and teachers, confuse English modality with modal verbs. Modal verbs represent indeed the most important part of modality, but there are also other parts of speech that fall into the same category. Modal expressions: 1. Nouns Allegation, hypothesis, prophesy, proposal, command, exhortation, instruction, invitation, request, assumption, certainty, doubt, 2. Adjectives 3. Adverbs expectation, etc. sure, certain, possible, necessary, probable, compulsory, imperative, lawful, legal, permissible, etc. allegedly, apparently, certainly, conceivably, evidently, hopefully, likely, necessarily, obviously, perhaps, possibly, presumably, 4. Verbs 5. Modal verbs probably, seemingly, supposedly, surely, etc. assume, believe, fancy, fear, feel, guess, hope, imagine, presume, reckon, surmise, suspect, think, trust, etc. can, may, must, will, shall, could, might, ought to, should, would,
need, dare These modal expressions are seen as ‘realisations’ of modal meanings by Downing and Locke. Besides the above mentioned, they add some other means of expressing modality to the list proposed by Perkins and taken over by I. Stefanescu: a) certain uses of if-clauses e.g. if you know what I mean if you don’t mind my saying so what if he’s had an accident b) the use of the remote past e.g. I thought I’d go along with you, if you don’t mind. c) the use of non-assertive items e.g. ‘any’ in He’ll eat any kind of vegetable. d) certain types of intonation e.g. the fall-rise As one can easily notice, Downing and Locke seem to fall into the trap that Palmer decided to avoid, namely complex clause modality. But they see the danger that, because of the diversity of these categories, modality should become indistinguishable from tentativeness. That is to say they decide to adopt a more limited scope, taking modality to be basically the expression of possibilities, probabilities, certainty, obligations, and permission. They stress the fact, obvious in all grammar books, that the modal verbs are the most basic exponents of modality, which is taken into consideration by grammarians when they come to examine the Verbal Group. The other modal elements tend to reinforce the modal meaning expressed by the modal verbs. The word relation is crucial to the meaning of modality; modality acts not like a reflection; in other words, each speaker uses not an ordinary mirror (see Stendhal) to reflect the image of the world, but a distorting one when he or she decides to make use of modal expressions. Modality is not direct, but indirect, devious, diverging.
In an attempt to synthesize the views expressed, on the one hand by Downing and Locke, and by Cornilescu and Chitoran, on the other, it only seems reasonable to believe that the possible worlds are those images reflected by the distorting mirrors. In Elena Bara’s doctoral thesis Aspects of Modality, modality is interpreted in terms of ‘attitude of the speaker’, with the following definitions of speaker and attitude: The speaker is: 1. Source of the speech act 2. Source and experiencer of the inference in utterances with epistemic modality 3. Animate source of a certain degree of volition in sentences with performative deontic modality. Attitude means a certain degree of belief, resulting in the speaker’s assessment of probability and predictability of a certain state of affairs, or as an act of volition, desire, intention, resulting in permission or obligation for someone to do something. It also includes other psychological states, feelings and emotions signalled by the modals especially in indirect speech acts: surprise, bewilderment, perplexity, hesitancy, modesty, acknowledgement of inconvenience caused etc. One can very easily notice that, when formulating this definition, Elena Bara heavily relies on pragmatic concepts drawn from Austin’s theory of speech acts and on theta theory. B. Features of modality After having considered aspects defining the concept of modality, it is now the time to speak about its features. We have seen so far that modality is a very complex notion whose sphere tends to spread until it becomes evasive and unfathomable. That is why, the first feature of modality that should be mentioned is perhaps the ambiguity of any modal system and especially of modal verbs. This means, of course, that most modal verbs are ambiguous between two readings. For instance, a sentence like He may smoke can be ascribed an epistemic reading (‘It is possible that he smokes.’) or a deontic one (‘He is allowed to smoke.’). But this ambiguity is only potential: in actual use the ambiguity is generally resolved by linguistic or extralinguistic factors; the rare cases of ambiguity are apparently due to a certain overlap in contextual features. Therefore, in a real-life situation, an interlocutor would not say He may smoke but I’ve never seen him doing that.
One may easily notice the close relationship between the real-world extralinguistic context and the linguistic choices made by the participants in the discourse. Hence, the great importance of the discourse context for an adequate description and interpretation of linguistic phenomena. Elena Bara stresses the necessity for any adequate analysis of modality to consider not only the superficial syntactic environment and the logico-semantic structure, but also the social context in which the discourse occurs. From the modal expressions available to him, a speaker will choose the one that will best suit his communicative intentions in a particular situation. The selection clearly involves pragmatic elements in addition to syntactic and semantic ones. If ambiguity is perhaps the most obvious of the characteristics of modality, the second of its features is subjectivity. Palmer mentions a distinction between subjective and objective modality, but only the latter, which eliminates speakers, has made the subject of study for traditional logic. However, modality in language, especially when marked grammatically, seems to be essentially subjective; this has already been shown in the discussion of speech acts and in reference to the speaker’s ‘opinion or attitude’. Modality in language is then concerned with subjective characteristics of an utterance, and it could even be further argued that subjectivity is an essential criterion for modality. Palmer even gives the following definition of modality: ‘Modality could be defined as the grammaticalization of speakers’ (subjective) attitudes and opinions.’ But subjectivity does not apply to all the modal verbs. Can, for instance, in as much as it expresses a subject’s ability to do something, is one of these verbs which are excluded on semantic grounds; such verbs are used for what von Wright (quoted by Palmer) calls ‘dynamic’ modality. Moreover, there is often the case that modal verbs are used where it is not possible to decide whether they are subjective or not (again some other kind of ambiguity). A sentence like You must leave at once can indicate either the speaker’s insistence or a general (objective) necessity for leaving, or it can well be indeterminate between the two readings. But pragmatic factors such as speakers must be incorporated in our analysis, because they are part of the context, of the situation and, when it comes to modal verbs that is the only clarifying element. On the other hand, it is difficult to suppose that concepts like
probability and possibility can pertain to objectivity; rather the speaker calculates the probability, estimates possibility and makes the distinction between the two of them. In the third place comes a feature of modality that cannot be described as either visible or basic, though undoubtedly important. It is scalarity, and it means that modal elements can be ordered on scales. Some spoke about the existence of hierarchies within the modal system but they are difficult to establish. Not only modal verbs or phrases, but also verbs like think, believe, know, etc, or even verbs of saying like tell, suggest, insist, urge, demand, order etc can carry some degree of modality which may range from near zero to the extremes of absolute certainty or strong volition. This makes it hard to separate modal expressions from non-modal ones, and hence makes it hard to set up hierarchies. Horn, quoted by E. Bara, proposed the existence of two scales as follows: Modal scale can/could may/might should/ought must/have to Epistemic/logic scale Possibility Possibility Probability Certainty/necessity Deontic scale Permission Permission Weak obligation/suggestion Strong obligation Ability
Unfortunately, there seems to be no room, on either of the scales, for the notion of ability expressed by CAN, which makes us conclude that any attempt to put together, to globally integrate the multitude of facets of modality is doomed to fail due to the complexity, irregularity and defectiveness of this concept. At a closer look, one can very easily notice that the three features I have so far enumerated are somehow inter-related. As Palmer put it, modality is a question of degree, on more or less, of intensity. That makes the difference between possibility and probability, for instance, which was not very obvious to many of my Romanian students. Subjectivity influences the scale. What to some speakers may seem only possible, can appear as very likely to others. The speaker’s placement on the scale may be the answer to the problems caused by subjectivity and ambiguity. The awareness that such scales exist may be useful to the L2 learner as he or she will be able to order on them the events about which he or she
wants to express his or her attitude, and hence it can help him or her to choose the right modal verb. C. Types of modality First we should note the fact that ‘types of modality’ refers to kinds of meanings for modal auxiliaries. Academic courses in morphology inform the Romanian students about the existence of two kinds of modality: epistemic and deontic or root modality. They are mentioned only with reference to modal verbs. But before tackling these two, I should stress the fact that these are not the only types of modality. In chapter five – Modal logic and possible world semantics, of Elements of English Sentence Semantics – Cornilescu and Chitoran suggest a more comprehensive classification of modalities from a logico-semantic point of view: 1) Epistemic modalities – have to do with the concepts of knowledge and belief. Belief logic is also called doxastic logic. e.g. It is known/believed/supposed/assumed that p. Or x knows/believes/supposes/assumes that p. 2) Deontic modalities – have to do with concepts that modulate human behaviour (derives from Gk deo = require), such as obligation, permission etc. e.g. It ought to be brought about that p. It is permitted/allowed to bring it about that p. 3) Boulomaic modalities relate to desire, wish etc. (Gk boulomai = desire) e.g. It is desired/hoped/feared that p. 4) Evaluative modalities – qualify a proposition in relation to certain standards of moral, aesthetic etc. values. e.g. It is good/bad/right/wrong that p. 5) Causal modalities – whose name is self-explanatory. e.g. The existing state of affairs will bring it about that p. cause p. prevent/impede the coming about that p.
6) Temporal modalities – characterize propositions regarding their temporal properties: order in time, frequency etc. They are studied by tense logic. e. g. It is sometimes/always/mostly/frequently the case that p. Coming back to the first two types of modality, they are the equivalent of the two scales proposed by Horn. Although distinct, they might seem to have something in common, namely the involvement of the speaker. Palmer essentially points out to what links and what separates epistemic and deontic modality; in what way they are related and what distinguishes them: ‘ … the distinction between epistemic and deontic modality is essentially part of the wider distinction between the use of language to inform and the use language to act, between language as a “mode of action” and language as a “countersign of thought”’. The inside quotes belong to Malinowski (1923[1949:300-1]), quoted by Palmer. From the first chapter, we have seen that modality involves the speakers’ attitude towards what they are saying. Now epistemic modality means that the attitude may be that of assessing the probability that the proposition is true in terms of modal certainty, probability, possibility. These are actually the concepts that epistemic modality includes. Epistemic modality is concerned with language as information, with the expression of degree or nature of the speaker’s commitment to the truth of what he says. (Epistemic modality is always subjective.) The term ‘epistemic’ derives from episteme, the Greek word for knowledge, understanding. Epistemic modalities conform to the rational laws of deduction; they are concerned with the interpretation of the world via the laws of human reason. But what is at stake here is not knowledge proper, but more precisely ‘the state of lack of knowledge’, as Perkins (1983:10) put it. For what we do when using possibility and probability is to resort to conceiving possible worlds just because we do not know the state of affairs in our given world and are afraid to make categorical statements (that may be qualified as true or false) about it. To know that something is the case means that it is actually the case; that would imply leaving the domain of modality; but to be (more or less) certain that something is the case (epistemic modality) does not necessarily mean that it is actually the case. Like I. Stefanescu, George Yule equates epistemic modality with deduction from speaker/writer; it ranges from strong conclusion to weak conclusion (see the table proposed by G. Yule). Palmer observes that epistemic modality should apply not simply to modal
systems that basically involve the notions of possibility and necessity, but to any modal system that indicates the degree of commitment by the speaker to what he says (in other words, epistemic modalities should include evidentials such as ‘hearsay’ or the quotative ‘report’ or verbs expressing the evidence of senses). Root modality is not based on the speaker’s knowledge of facts, but on the speaker’s awareness of what is socially determined. By means of modality speakers can intervene in the speech event, by laying obligations, or giving permission. Closely related to these meanings are those of ability and intrinsic possibility. Root modality is typically used interpersonally, i.e. in communication. Root modality is not always subjective. e.g. You must go now if you wish to catch the bus. – non-involvement of the speaker You must come here at once. – involvement of the speaker In as much as ambiguity is concerned, it is always the context that clarifies whether the meaning of a modal should be understood as either epistemic or deontic. Downing and Locke consider that the following concepts fall under epistemic modality: certainty, probability and possibility. The modal verbs that realize them are: will, must, be bound to, should, ought, may, might, could. They see volition, obligation, necessity, ability and permission as features of deontic modality which are realized by will (shall), must, have to, have got to, can, could, may, might, should, ought. They distinguish intrinsic from extrinsic possibility. The former is expressed by can and is paraphrased by ‘It is possible to … ‘ or ‘It is possible for … to …’, whereas is expressed by may, might and could and paraphrased by ‘It is possible that …’. They illustrate this distinction with the following examples: e.g. I can be there by ten o’clock. ( = It is possible for me to be there by ten o’clock.) I may/might be there by ten o’clock. ( = It is possible that I’ll be there by ten o’clock.) Well-known grammarians like Sidney Greenbaum and Randolph Quirk refer to the deontic-epistemic dichotomy as to intrinsic-extrinsic modality. The domains of intrinsic and deontic modality, on the one hand, and of extrinsic and epistemic modality, on the other, overlap. But intrinsic and deontic are only approximate synonyms, whereas for extrinsic the common variant is epistemic. Intrinsic modality involves some intrinsic human control over the events, whereas extrinsic modality involves human judgement of what is or is not likely to happen.
Necessary and possible George Yule, in his book Explaining English Grammar, notes that there is a clear parallel between the major distinctions made in both epistemic and root modality in English. That pattern is based on what is necessary and what is possible. If I see someone buying a lot of milk at the store, I can come to the strong conclusion expressed in 5.a or the weaker conclusion in 5b. 5.a He must drink a lot of milk. (= necessary) b He may drink a lot of milk. (= possible) These epistemic uses are knowledge-based and can be paraphrased as ‘necessary that’ (must) and ‘possible that’ (may). If, in a different context, a parent wants a child to drink some milk, it can be expressed as a strong obligation, as in 6.a. Alternatively, if the parent is responding to a child’s request for something to drink, it can be expressed without any strong obligation, as in 6.b. 6.a You must drink some milk. (= necessary) b You may drink some milk. (= possible) These root modality uses are socially-based, given the general social authority of parents in determining their child’s behaviour. In these examples, the modals can be paraphrased as ‘necessary for’ (must) and ‘possible for’ (may). The following table schematically contains the two types of modality as viewed by George Yule:
Epistemic modality (=deduction from speaker/writer) (a) Strong conclusion (necessity) (b) Weak conclusion (possibility) He must be crazy. (= ‘I say it is necessarily the case that he is crazy.’) He may be crazy. (= ‘I say it is possibly the case that he is crazy.’) Root modality (= requirements from the speaker/writer)
(a) Obligation (necessity) (b) Permission (possibility)
You must leave. (= ‘I say it is necessary for you to leave.’) You may leave. (= ‘I say it possible for you to leave.’)
The Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English mentions the existence of two typical structural correlates of modal verbs with intrinsic meanings: 1) The subject of the VP usually refers to a human being (as agent of the main verb) 2) The main verb is usually a dynamic verb, describing an activity or event that can be controlled. In contrast, modal verbs with extrinsic meanings usually occur with non-human subjects and/or with main verbs having stative meanings. Intrinsic meanings: e.g. You can’t mark without a scheme. You must make a scheme. <obligation> We shall not attempt a detailed account of linguistic categories in this book, but will use as far as possible those which are well enough known … <intention> Extrinsic meanings: e.g. You must have thought that you must have so much time. <necessity> But in other cases his decisions will seem more radical. <prediction> It should be noted, however, that these correlates are not absolute.
CHAPTER TWO – PRELIMINARIES ON THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS
A. Grammatical status of the English modal verbs
Before approaching the meanings of the modal verbs proper, it should be interesting to notice that there has been a long debate over their grammatical status. This situation is largely due to the fact that, in many languages, the modals are, syntactically and semantically, highly irregular, very complex and unpredictable. Grammarians do not seem to agree (at least this is what the literature shows) upon their status; whether they should be analyzed as (semi-)auxiliaries or main verbs, as mere morphemes or other non-verb-like elements. Most traditional grammar books list the English modals among the semiauxiliary verbs. Chomsky’s classical transformational theory views modals as a special syntactic category. Later on, with the improvements brought about by X Bar Theory, modals came to be part of the inflection I°, the head of the sentence. As modals in English are defective, they appear only accompanied by tense. So tense and modality have to be viewed as the same constituent. I° → T M I° → [± Tense, ± Agreement] (M) Inflection, through its content, relates the major parts of the sentence: the subject and the predicate. The tense constituent in inflection is an operator on the predicate (VP). Through its agreement feature, inflection relates to the subject. It is an element which secures the order of the sentence. The Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English does not say anything about the grammatical status of modal verbs. But Quirk and Greenbaum, in their A Student’s Grammar of the English Language, designate modal verbs as auxiliaries. To the extent that they are real auxiliary verbs, they share the following main characteristics with the auxiliaries that become operators when they occur as the first verb of a finite VP: (a) To negate a finite clause, we put not immediately after the operator. Contrast: She may do it. ~She may not do it. She saw the play. ~*She saw not the play. (b) To form an interrogative form, we put the operator in front of the subject (subjectoperator inversion). Contrast: He will speak first. ~Will he speak first? He plans to speak first. ~*Plans he to speak first?
(c) The operator can carry nuclear stress to mark a finite clause as positive rather than negative. Won’t you try again? Yes, I will try again. The function of this emphatic positive is to deny a negative that has been stated or implied. (d) The operator functions in a range of elliptical clauses where the rest of the predication is omitted. The clause is understood to repeat the omitted past. Won’t you try again? Yes, I will. No, I can’t. I should mention that I have come across an exercise book published by Teora, Teste de linba engleza (Essential English, 29), written by Barbara Pawlowska and Zbigniew Kempinski, that proposed a very interesting and, at the same time, useful (for students and other people that learn English) classification of the English verbs: English verbs ordinary regular irregular special auxiliary modal
In my opinion, this schema could be used as a cornerstone of any explanation when approaching the English verbal system. Only, I should add, the schema should be supplemented with further explanations: why the ordinary verbs are ordinary, what does ‘special’ imply etc. B. Characteristics of the English modal verbs Apart from those characteristics mentioned above, that belong to the whole class of auxiliaries, there are other features specific to modal verbs: (a) They are followed by the bare infinitive (i.e. the bare form of the verb without a preceding TO) You will ask the questions. (b) They cannot occur in nonfinite functions, i.e. as infinitives or participles: may ~*to may, *maying, *mayed. In consequence they can occur only as the first verb in the verb phrase.
( c) They have no –s form for the third person singular of the present simple tense. Contrast: You must write. ~She must write. You like to write. ~She likes to write. (d) Their past forms can be used to refer to present and future time (often with a tentative meaning): I think he may/might be outside. Will/would you phone him tomorrow? To all these, the so-called NICE properties are added, NICE meaning negation, inversion, code, emphatic affirmation. (i) inversion with the subject Must I come? e.g.
negative form with n’t can’t go. ‘code’ He can swim and so can he. emphatic affirmation e.g. He will be there.
e.g. I e.g.
Modal verbs have been regarded as polysemous words. Consider the examples: 1 a. You may open the window. b. He may be in Warsaw right now. In 1a. may can be attributed a permission interpretation which is socially-oriented; in 1b. the same modal refers to the possibility of a person to be located in Warsaw in keeping with an inferential process that has to do with human reason. Can may be applied a similar treatment: 2 a. You can open the window. b. He can swim. c. There can only be one outcome of nuclear war.
In these examples can appears as a polysemous word: expressing permission in a.; someone’s physical ability to do something in b.; and the possibility that an event should happen in c. These examples containing a modal verb show the fact that they can be given several readings. Hence their polysemous quality is demonstrated. I.Stefanescu mentions two different lines of thought that could account for the problem of polysemy: (a) one line of investigation assumes the traditional centrality of syntax, therefore a syntactic characterization of the distribution of the modals is given together with their various meanings in different environments, i.e. the existence of a different meaning is associated with a difference in distributional properties.
(b) The second line of investigation assumes the centrality of semantics and reaffirms the
belief that one single linguistic form can have one meaning, i.e. one form is for one meaning and one meaning is for one form; hence, a modal verb like may or can or must can have only one sense, the different interpretations being a matter of contextual interpretation not of semantics. One of the grammarians who embrace the first theoretical framework is Hoffman, quoted by I.Stefanescu. He observes a recurrence of syntactic patterning in the behaviour of modal verbs; there are two broad syntactic patterns each having a characteristic sense: 1. one epistemic sense (comprising certainty, probability, possibility) shared by the modals a) that occur with the progressive aspect b) and with the perfect infinitive form c) and have no selectional restrictions on the subject. Examples corresponding to a, b, c: She can be singing now. He must have already gone. The apple/boy must have fallen from the tree. 2. one root or deontic sense (comprising duty, necessity, volition, permission, capability) shared by modals that a) cannot occur with the progressive aspect
b) and with the perfect infinitive form c) and impose selectional restrictions upon the subject, i.e. the subject of the sentence containing the modal must be animate. Examples corresponding to a, b, c: *He can be singing now. (no ability interpretation) *He may have gone outside to play. (no permission interpretation) *My car must leave now. (no obligation interpretation) To conclude, according to Hoffman, each of the modals has two different senses, an epistemic and a root sense, each of them being associated with a different set of syntactic environments. The second line of thought puts forth the idea that there is a way to separate the lexical definition of a word from its contextual occurrences that influence the way it is understood. I. Stefanescu invokes Wertheimer’s study (1972) dedicated to The Significance of Sense, Meaning, Modality and Morality. On the examples (ii) a. You can add every integer to every other integer. a’. It is permissible by the rules of arithmetic. b. You can’t add every integer to every other integer. b’. Some computations are so long you wouldn’t be able to complete them in a billion years. Wertheimer makes the following remarks: ‘If one tried to distinguish the can connected with ii.a’ from the can connected with ii.b’, one would harvest, not a delineation of two senses of can, but a distinction between logical possibility and physical possibility (=capacity). This in turn would lead to a characterization of two different systems of laws. For ii.a’ one would produce a partial characterization of a system of mathemathical laws, and for ii.b’ a scientific theory about living organisms.’ The modal verb can has only one sense, what differs is the interpretation when set in different contexts and related to different systems of laws. And given this state of affairs, we have to ask ourselves how a speaker/hearer knows which system of laws to refer to in order to give the utterance the intended interpretation. The answer is the pragmatic factor which provides us with conceptual knowledge of the world we live in and the ways we use language to refer to this world. The conclusion drawn by Wertheimer is that ‘given our conceptual scheme, some
sentences will be naturally associated with only one kind of system. The first type strikes us as ambiguous; the second as unproblematically univocal.’ C. A classification of modal verbs An obvious fact imposes a classification of modal verbs, namely that they do not form a homogeneous class, they differ from one another syntactically and semantically. Some modal verbs are more prominent, in the sense that they are used more often than other modal verbs. Then, differences in meaning have been noticed between modal verbs and their paraphrases. Traditional studies on the subject were geared towards emphasizing the similarities between the modal verbs and their paraphrases. More recent studies, like Perkins’s (1983), shed light on the difference between modal verbs and other modal expressions. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language comprises a classification in the form of a scale (again) on which ‘verbs of intermediate function’ are ranged. These verbs form a set of categories which may be roughly placed on a gradient between modal auxiliaries at one end, and full verbs such as hope, which take a nonfinite clause as object, at the other. The extremes of the scale are: a) I can go. b) I hope to go. The structural implication of this scale is that the construction a) contains one VP, whereas the construction b) contains a finite VP followed by a nonfinite one. Semantic aspects of the scale may be noted; many of the intermediate verbs have meanings associated with aspect, tense and modality, meanings which are primarily expressed through auxiliary verb constructions. We reproduce below the schema containing the classification of verbs of intermediate function. CENTRAL MODALS MARGINAL MODALS MODAL IDIOMS SEMI-AUXILIARIES can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must dare, need, ought to, used to had better, would rather/sooner, be to, have got to etc. have to, be about to, be able to, be bound to,
be going to, be obliged to, be supposed to, CATENATIVES MAIN VERRB +nonfinite clause be willing to, etc. appear to, happen to, seem to, get +-ed participle, keep+-ing participle, etc. hope+to-infinitive, begin+-ing participle, etc.
CHAPTER THREE - MEANINGS OF THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS
Traditional grammars provide us with the meanings of the modal verbs by listing the modal verbs first and then ascribing them certain values. The usual procedure is that one starts by enumerating the meanings of the central modals; the periphrastic modals are added after each central modal whose equivalent they are. The meanings of each modal are illustrated
with examples. Of course, such lists, even if thorough and accurate, can only serve to a traditional, structure-oriented way of teaching, wherein grammar is presented deductively. As a reaction to this traditional view and in keeping with the relatively new approaches in methodology and language teaching, approaches that emphasize the communicative function of language, the prevalence of functions over structures, and that of fluency over accuracy, more recent grammar books offer a new perspective on modality in the sense that the explanations of the modal verbs are now reshaped and reformulated. We no longer have to do with an initial list of modal verbs, but with a list of such items as: obligation, necessity, ability, etc. which are very close to linguistic functions. Under these headings, the modal verbs are listed. In other words, the structures are subordinated to the linguistic functions. Hard as it was to make a decision, I opted for the second way of description for the meanings of the modal verbs. The reason for my choice is the pragmatic advantage offered by the second perspective: it shows, from the very beginning, in what context one can use a certain modal verb. When I took into consideration the types of modality, I stated the fact that each modal verb has two distinct meanings: deontic and epistemic or intrinsic and extrinsic. And it seemed reasonable to me to begin with the epistemic meanings and the modals that share them. Note: All the examples in this section have been selected from the University Course in English Grammar of Angela Downing and Philipe Locke. 1. Modal certainty, probability and possibility These three options represent the three degrees of confidence, or lack of it, that the speaker feels towards the truth of the proposition formulated. 1.2 Modal certainty: will, must, be bound to Modal certainty is not what we usually understand by this notion, i.e. the hundred per cent certainty of a categorical assertion. No additional expression of certainty can equal in strength an unmodalised declarative. If, for instance, I know for a fact that Pat forgot your birthday, I simply say ‘Pat forgot your birthday’. If instead I say ‘Pat must have forgotten
your birthday’ or ‘Pat may have forgotten ‘ I am admitting an element of doubt. Modal certainty is, therefore, diminished certainty, chosen either because the speaker’s state of knowledge has not permitted a plain assertion or because the speaker does not want to exteriorise commitment at any given moment in a particular interpersonal interaction. It is often the case that speakers opt for a modal rather than for a categorical expression for reasons of politeness. There are two kinds of modal certainty, illustrated as follows: The concert will be over by now. The concert must be over. The first, which forms part of the wider notion of ‘prediction’, is a certainty based on repeated experience or common sense. It is realised by will. It can refer not only to future occurrences as in She will be twenty tomorrow but to the three types of present reference: coinciding with speech time, timeless and habitual as in the following examples: (The doorbell rings). That will be Peter. (speech time) Ice will melt at room temperature. (timeless) They’ll gossip for hours. (habitual) Would is used in narratives with past time reference: He would be about sixty when I first met him. They would gossip for hours, sitting in the park. Predictive would in narrative is illustrated in the following extract: When grandpa got to his office, he would put his hat on his desk…. It was a device of his to get away from bores or talkative friends. As the door opened, he would automatically reach for his derby, and if it was somebody he didn’t want to see, he would rise and say, ‘I’m sorry, but I was just about to leave.’ He would then walk to the street with his visitor, find out which way the man was going, and set off in the opposite direction, walking around the block and entering the store by the back door. James Thurber, ‘Photographic Album: Man with a Rose’ The second type of modal certainty is usually called ‘logical necessity’, and is based on a process of deduction; The concert must be over might be said, for instance, if the speaker sees that the light are off, the concert hall is closed, etc. This meaning is realised in English
by must, which is subjective, and also now with some speakers by have to which is more objective. The key must be in your pocket. The key has to be in your pocket. Be bound to and be sure to are alternative realisations to must, and equally subjective. The key is bound to be / is sure to be in your pocket. 1.3 Probability, or ‘reasonable inference’: should, ought to A less firm conclusion than that expressed by must is referred to as the notion of probability, or what is reasonable to expect. The modal markers of probability are should and ought. The main semantic feature distinguishing these modals from must is that they implicitly admit non-fulfilment of the predicated activity, whereas must does not. We can say We should have enough petrol to get there, but of course we may not, but not *We must have enough petrol to get there, but of course we may not. Should and ought are said to be ‘nonfactive’, that is not binding, as opposed to will and must which are ‘factive’ or binding. They can be illustrated as follows: Supper should be ready. Let’s go into the dining-room. You must be hungry. With past time reference, should and ought, but not will and must, have an interpretation that the expected action did not occur. He should have reached the office by now (and he probably has/ but it seems he hasn’t). He will have reached the office by now. He must have reached the office by now. There is often a blending of inference and obligation within the meaning of should and ought, as in For this price the hotel should be much better. Likely and likelihood, with the corresponding negative forms unlikely and unlikelihood, unambiguously express probability: Rain is likely in the west later today. All flights are likely to be delayed.
The most likely outcome of Saturday’s match is a draw. There’s likelihood of frost tonight.
1.4 Epistemic possibility: may, might, could In order to assess the possibility of something being true, English speakers make use of the modal auxiliaries may and might; in addition, stressed could is increasingly used, particularly in the media. These can be paraphrased as ‘it is possible that x’: They may be real pearls, you know. They might be real pearls, you know. They could be real pearls, you know. All three expressions mean ‘It is possible that they are real pearls’. It is clear from this paraphrase that might and could, although historically past forms, do not in such cases refer to past time, but to present states of affairs. They can also be used to refer to future events: It may / might / could snow tomorrow. (It is possible that it will snow tomorrow.) Can is not used in positive declarative clauses which express epistemic possibility. We do not say *They can be real pearls *It can snow tomorrow. Can replaces the other modals, however, in the negation of possibility ( = it is not possible that x) as in They can’t possibly be real pearls, you know (Nu se poate sa fie perle adevarate). It is also used in the interrogative, although it is less common to question extrinsic possibilities (Can they be real pearls?). When the lexical meaning is negated, not is used (It may not snow = Se poate sa nu ninga; They might not be real = Se poate sa bu fie adevarate). Could is even less used in interrogative clauses meaning is it possible that x?, presumably because its prototypical meaning is that of intrinsic possibility, is it possible for x?. Unlike what we have learned in school, may, might and could are difficult to place on a scale of confidence. In other words it is difficult to affirm that one or other of them evinces a stronger or more remote possibility. They can all be intensified by (very) well, which heightens the possibility, and by just, which lowers it: They may / might / could very well be real pearls.
They may / might / could just be real pearls. The following examples, one from spoken English, the other written, illustrate how the three can be used in one utterance: I may be a few minutes late; it might be seven o’clock before I can get away; it could even be half-past. The provision might be deleted altogether; it may remain as it stands; or it could emerge considerably strengthened and broadened. The Observer, 19 January 1975. In these examples the three modals are interchangeable, with little difference to the message. Other factors such as speakers’ age, social dialect and the degree of formality or informality of the situation undoubtedly influence the choice of modal. It is suggested that may is more formal and indicates reserve, might being now the more neutral form, especially with younger speakers, and could perhaps express a more assertive attitude. And yet George Yule sees could as more remote in likelihood, but in relationship with can: With the right tools, I could fix it myself. Might, in its turn, marks the remoteness of possibility, i.e. ‘uncertainty’ about the likelihood of an event taking place or request being granted. He’s really busy now, but he might join us later. Might I ask you a big favour? It is clear that the various options outlined above permit the speaker to make fine distinctions in English with regard to judgement about the truth or likelihood of the proposition: He’ll be there by now. He must be there by now. He’s bound to be there. He has to be there by now. He’s likely to be there. He should be there by now. He could be there by now. He might be there by now. He may be there by now. Syntactic features of epistemic modality (prediction based on common sense) (almost certainty based on deduction) (almost certainty + inevitability) (almost certainty, objective) (probability) (reasonable inference) (strong possibility (?)) (neutral possibility) (reserve as to possibility)
The modal meanings that have been examined so far, when realised by modal auxiliaries in English, can co-occur with certain syntactic features: (a) existential Subject (b) be + ing (c) stative verbs (d) dynamic verbs (e) passive voice (f) lexical auxiliary (g) past reference by have + -en There might be enough. He might be waiting. He might be twenty. I might leave early. It might be rebuilt later. It might have to be abandoned. He might have left by now.
When reference is made to events in past time by the epistemic modals, the modal meaning of prediction, certainty, possibility or probability is not itself past; the speaker carries out the act of predicting, etc., in present time. Pastness is realised by the have + -en Perfect form attached to the main verb (They will have arrived by now, I may have made a mistake, It must have got lost in the post, Things might have been a lot worse). 2. Features of intrinsic modality: volition, obligation, necessity, ability, permission These modal meanings have as a group a number of features in common. Functionally, they are instrumental in the establishing and maintaining of social relations and interaction. Through them, speakers influence and control others, and commit themselves to certain courses of action. They may bring about changes in their surroundings, by obligations which are met, permissions given, promises kept and so on. Semantically, the modal part of the utterance is not, as is the case with extrinsic modality, a comment in the possibility that the action expressed in the clause may occur. With intrinsic modality, the modality forms part of the linguistic event, and the speaker intervenes in the action. Syntactically, these modal meanings are associated with certain features such as the following: (a) Past time reference is not realised by have + -en, but frequently by forms of other verbs: I must leave. We may leave.
I had to leave. We were allowed to leave.
There is an agentive relationship between the Subject and the verb when the verb is active; that is, the Subject carries out the action by his or her own energy (You must finish writing; Will you wait here for a moment?).
(c) The existential Subject which is a common co-occurrence with extrinsic modality is virtually excluded. (d) Stative verbs are equally uncommon. Volition The concept of volition covers the meanings of willingness as in Will you sign this for me? and intention as in I’ll bring it back tomorrow. 2.1 Willingness: will, (shall) Willingness can be paraphrased by be willing to. The action predicated by the main verb can coincide with speech time, or refer to repeated or future events: Will you give a donation to the Midlife Society? – Yes, I will. Our cat won’t eat anything but the best brands of cat-food. Will you marry me? The key won’t go in the lock. The car won’t start. In the last two examples, the speakers unload their frustration by attributing unwillingness to cooperate to an inanimate object. 2.2 Intention: will, (shall) Intention is the second type of volition and can be paraphrased by intend to. When a speaker expresses an intention, the intention is, naturally, coincident with speech time, but the intended action is in the future: I’ll ring you sometime next week.
We’ll take the night train to the coast. I think I’ll just tape this bit of opera. Will is used for all persons, shall by some speakers for the first person singular and plural. Both are reduced to ‘ll in affirmative clauses. The speaker’s commitment in using these modals is as strong as in the epistemic meanings. For this reason the will of intention can have the illocutionary force of either a promise or a threat, according to whether the intended action is beneficial to the addressee or otherwise. The co-occurrence with such verbs as promise and warn reinforces the interpretation: I’ll bring you something back from Paris, I promise. I warn you that if you keep talking this way I’ll hang up. 2.3 Obligation and necessity In English, obligation and necessity can be conceived as an inescapable duty or requirement, realised by must, have (got) to and, in a lesser degree, by shall; or else, simply as an advisable course of action, realised by should and ought. 2.3.1 Inescapable obligation: must, have to, have got to Inescapable obligation when realised by must can have the force of a direct command, as in: You must try harder. You must copy this out again. The strength and directness of the illocutionary force in these examples is a result of the following factors: (a) The Subject is ‘you’. (b) The authority resides in the speaker, who takes responsibility for the action; the obligation is subjective. (c) Within the cultural context of the exchange, as in school, family, the Armed Forces, the speaker has authority over the addressee. (d) The verb is agentive and in active voice.
The force of must is diminished if one or more of these factors is modified, as in the following examples: I must catch the last bus without fail. (Subject is I) Drug-traffickers must be punished. (3rd person Subject; authority does not reside in the speaker; passive voice) You must tell me how to get to your house. (speaker has no authority over addressee) Applications must be in by June 30. (non-agentive verb; 3rd person subject; passive voice) It seems that the more subjective the expression of obligation, the more strongly it is perceived by the addressee, especially in face-to-face interaction. Since must is subjective in the imposition of an obligation, the use of a third person Subject and the passive voice are useful strategies to mitigate the directness, although not the inescapability of the obligation. When no human control is implied, the meaning is that of intrinsic necessity, as in: Lizards must hibernate if they are to survive the winter. Of all the modal expressions of obligation shall is the most imperious, direct and subjective, and for this reason is little used in the spoken language. It occurs in legal language and other formal contexts, as in the regulations of the Olympic Games: All competitors in the Games shall wear a number. Of the lexico-modals, have to is objective and have got to subjective. I’ve got to go now. (the obligation is internal) I have to go to see the Dean. (the obligation in external) There are further differences between the modals of obligation: Syntactically, have to, unlike must and have got to, has non-finite forms having to, to have to. Both have to and have got to, unlike must, have a past form had (got) to, but only have to can combine with the modal auxiliaries (may have to, may have got to). Forms of have to are therefore used as suppletives for must: We had to pay in advance. We’ll have to pay in advance.
Have got to and must tend to be used, rather than have to, to actualise an event that coincides with speech time: We must / have got to / have to call a doctor straight away. Conversely, have to is preferred for a repeated action: The child has to have an injection every other day. Have to and its negative forms (don’t/doesn’t/didn’t have to) have for many speakers supplanted need as the interrogative and negative of must. Need you leave so soon? You needn’t wait. Do you have to leave so soon? You don’t have to wait. In such cases it is the modal concept that is questioned or negated. When the lexical concept is negated, this is achieved by not, which can be attached enclitically as n’t to must: We mustn’t forget to ask Mary to water the plants. 2.3.2 Unfulfilled obligation, advisability: should, ought With should and ought an obligation is expressed as not binding, as it is with must; it may be unfulfilled: People should drive more carefully. You really ought to cut down on smoking. Motivations for using these modals instead of must include the lack of authority on the part of the speaker to impose the obligation, tact, politeness or a lack of conviction of the absolute necessity of the predicated action. The following invented advertisement clearly distinguishes the necessary from the merely desirable: Candidates must be university graduates. Candidates must be between 21 and 35. Candidates should have at least three years’ experience. With should and ought + have + -en, the speaker implies that the obligation was not fulfilled:
He should have driven more carefully. The Government should have taken a decision earlier. Be supposed to is similar to should and ought in being contrary to fact: We are supposed to be on holiday. We shouldn’t be working. They were supposed to be here by eight, but most people turned up at a quarter past. 2.4 Intrinsic possibility, ability, permission: can, could, may, might These three related meanings are expressed by can, negative can’t: This paint can be applied with a spray. (It is possible to apply this paint …/for this paint to be applied…) Can you reach the top shelf? ( = Are you able to reach …?) You can’t park here. ( = you are not allowed to park here) In chapter one C. Types of modality we have already shown the distinction between intrinsic possibility, which is expressed by can, and extrinsic possibility, which is expressed by may, might and could. Several other remarks need to be made. The meanings expressed by can all correspond to a basic pattern, which in its positive form can be expressed as ‘nothing prevents x from occurring’ and in its negative form as ‘something prevents x from occurring’. That ‘something’ in each case represents a set of laws, whether natural laws, moral laws, laws of physics, of good manners, and perhaps many more. For this reason, an utterance such as You can’t do that will be interpreted in different ways according to the context in which it occurs, and depending on which set of laws applies in a particular case: You can’t do that = it’s not possible for you to do that (e.g. walk from the mainland to Mallorca) You can’t do that = You are not able to do that. (e.g. lift such a heavy box) You can’t do that = You are not allowed to do that (e.g. park your car in the Dean’s garden) You can’t do that = social norms prevail against doing that (e.g. infringe local customs)
Since the possibility and ability to carry out an action is a necessary requirement for a person to perform that action, can lends itself to various pragmatic interpretations by inference, such as willingness (I can get the copies for you, if you like), command (If you can’t keep quiet you can get out), request (Can you help me lift this sofa?) and potential usuality (It can be very cold in Madrid in winter). May (negative may not ) is a more formal alternative to can in the meanings of permission and intrinsic possibility, and is extended to such meanings as polite offer. May I come in? Yes, you may. (request for permission) In spring, wild orchids may be found in the woods. (possibility = it is possible to find … ) May I help you with the luggage? (polite offer) Might is sometimes used for an indirect request: You might fetch me a coke and a bag of crisps. The past of can is could or was/were able to + infinitive, depending on whether an imperfective or perfective meaning is intended. With be able the predicated action is achieved, that is to say, it is seen as perfective; with could, the action is viewed as extended in the past, that is as imperfective: From the top of the hill we could see for miles. Was he able to escape? not *Could he escape? This distinction is obligatory only in the affirmative and the interrogative. In the negative, could and be able to are interpreted as having the same result and are therefore interchangeable: He wasn’t able to escape. He couldn’t escape.
A. Preliminary considerations on teaching grammar To teach modal verbs means in fact to teach grammar, or an item of grammar. The problem of most students(especially highschool students) is the fact that they do not seem to understand why they should learn grammar. In other words Romanian teachers of English are confronted with their students’ lack of motivation for learning grammar. In the following paragraph I will try to find a motivation for learning grammar. In order to do so, I need the definition of grammar. For it is my opinion that the motivation we are all looking for is rooted in this definition. In his book Aspects of Language Teaching, H.G. Widdowson quotes two funny lines from Oliver Goldsmith’s play She Stoops to Conquer: Let schoolmasters puzzle their brain With grammar, and nonsense, and learning … The lines are from a song sung by Tomy Lumpkin, a character who misspends much of his time in a tavern. He associates grammar and learning with nonsense, equating it with an
irrational activity. What I propose to do is to demonstrate the contrary and show that grammar and learning are not useless, but helpful in that they actually facilitate and improve communication and human relationships. According to Penny Ur’s definition, grammar is ‘the way a language manipulates and combines words (or bits of words) in order to form longer units of meaning’. Widdowson claims approximately the same thing, naming grammar a complex device that mediates between words and contexts. Its complexity cannot be accounted for only by invoking the communicative function and should not make the sole object of study for language learning. For if it did, then the situation would be similar to people ‘learning about the delicate mechanisms of a clock without knowing how to tell the time’. Widdowson stresses the importance of how to put grammar (and language in general) to use: ‘What is crucial for learners to know is how grammar functions in allowance with words and contexts for the achievement of meaning’. An explanation of how this mediation actually takes place is provided again by Widdowson: The greater the contribution of context in the sense of shared knowledge and experience the less need there is for grammar to augment the association of words. The less effective the words are in identifying relevant features of context in that sense, the more dependent they become on grammatical modification of one sort or another. And of course where there can be no possibility of shared contextual knowledge, as in the case of unpredictable personal invention and interpretation, grammar provides the guarantee of individual conceptual freedom. Contrary to what Tomy Lumpkin believes, speaking for all those who have been subjected to the drudgery of learning it in school, grammar is not a constraining imposition but a liberating force: it frees us from a dependency on context and the limitations of a purely lexical categorization of reality. The teaching of grammar, as traditionally practised, does not promote the mediation between words and meaning. On the contrary, it is the formal properties of the device which are given prominence. Lexis is subordinated to grammar as words are used for the purpose of illustration; which actually denies the nature of grammar as a construct for the mediation of meaning. Widdowson suggests ‘that a more natural and more effective approach would be to reverse this traditional pedagogic dependency, begin with lexical items and show how they need to be grammatically modified to be communicatively effective’.
Such a suggestion hints at the Communicative Approach to language teaching. The communicative approach in language teaching starts from a theory of language as communication. The goal of language teaching is to develop communicative competence which means being able to use the language appropriate to a given social context. To do this students need knowledge of the linguistic forms, meanings, and functions. They must be able to choose from among these the most appropriate form, given the social context and the roles of the interlocutors. They must also be able to manage the process of negotiating meaning with their interlocutors. The theory of learning underlying the Communicative Approach is based on three principles:
Communication principle – activities that involve real communication promote learning Task principle – activities in which language is used for carrying out meaningful tasks promote learning Meaningfulness principle – language that is meaningful to the learner supports the learning process.
But, as Widdowson notes, traditional approaches to teaching grammar also recognize the ability to communicate as the primary objective of language learning and conceive of structural practice only as a means to that end. To support this statement Widdowson cites Lado, who sees structural manipulation through a communicative purpose. We should be wrong to assume that such practice would confine the learner to mechanistic performance. On the contrary, it creates conditions for effective communicative use. It leads to the internalization of patterns at a subconscious level, and thereby leaves the mind 'free to dwell on the message conveyed through the language’. Lado delineates the domains of habit, where such patterns belong, and of mind and personality that ‘may be freed to dwell in their proper realm, that is on the meaning of the communication rather than the mechanics of grammar’. Widdowson points to the difference between Lado’s position and that of those who advocate CLT as lying in the concept of communication itself, not in any disagreement about the centrality of communicative purpose.
According to traditional approaches on language teaching the message conveyed though language’ and ‘the meaning of the communication’ are linguistically encoded. The subsequent assumption would be that meaning is intrinsic to language itself, a property signalled through the medium of language. This medium concept, which defines meaning as a function of the linguistic sign as formal symbol, can be contrasted with a concept of meaning as significance which is mediated by human agency. In this latter view, meaning is not a semantic matter of encoding and decoding messages by reference to linguistic knowledge but a pragmatic matter of negotiating an indexical relationship between linguistic signs and features of the context. It is not transmitted through the semantic medium of language, it is achieved by the pragmatic mediation of language users. What is at stake here is not what linguistic expressions communicate, but how do people communicate by using linguistic expressions. The medium account of meaning is therefore associated with the semantics of sentence grammar, the mediation account with the pragmatics of language use. Language teaching has seen over the recent years a shift of emphasis from the medium to the mediation view. The medium view, as applied to pedagogy, presupposes a focus on the syntactic and semantic properties of the language itself and looking for ways of manipulating them for the purposes of transmission. The learner is regarded as a receptacle; he receives the information conveyed through the various pedagogic activities which are designed to facilitate the internalization of units of meaning so that they are put in store and ready for use when required. Typical instantiations of such activities will be exercises for the provision of practice. The mediation view stresses the importance of creating conditions for negotiation. The learners will be engaged in activities designed to achieve purposeful outcomes by means of language. The typical activities here will be tasks for problem solving. As I have already stated, the mediation view has been preferred of late for a number of reasons. First, language teaching has been influenced by recent tendencies in the study of language: the extension of the scope of linguistic description beyond the sentence, the study of actually occurring language in context, the interest in speech acts and pragmatics. Simultaneously, research in second language acquisition has put forth the idea that it is the creative exploitation of language to achieve purposeful outcomes which generates the
learning process itself. A third reason would be that the medium view is associated with authority. With its emphasis on transmission and conformity, it promotes the conservation of established social values and is consistent with a concept of education as the means of maintaining conventions and persuading people into their acceptance such an ideology is not well suited to the spirit of the age, at least as this is perceived in some parts of the world. It has been called into question on the grounds that it perpetuates the rule of privilege and denies the rights of self-determination and dissent. The mediation view did not necessarily come as a reaction to this, but it certainly promotes more liberal ideas, allowing for discovery and self-expression it emphasizes initiative rather than initiation, the autonomy of learning rather than the authority of teaching. In spite of all these considerations, one can not totally dismiss the medium view, because the deciphering that it presupposes does demonstrate a knowledge of linguistic resources which are indispensable in the achievement of meaning by mediation. It is not enough that the learner knows linguistic resources as an internalized potential, he must also know how to access this knowledge and realize it as a resource. And now we have come to the motivation that we began to speak about. Everything about motivation for learning grammar boils down to this: knowledge of language (in this particular case, grammar) is a necessary condition for communication, but it is not a sufficient condition (as Lado seemed to imply). In other words, the two pedagogic approaches are complementary. One implies the other and they complete each other. In the following two chapters I propose to take into consideration the two approaches compared by Widdowson (medium and mediation) as applied to the English modal verbs. What I intend to uncover is to what extent each approach is suitable and to what levels of proficiency it can be best fitted. This implies examining the advantages and disadvantages that both of them have and seeing whether it is always possible to remedy these drawbacks by resorting to a complementary approach. But in order to do that we first need to see what teaching grammar actually means.
B. What it takes to do the job As teaching modals is part of teaching grammar, one should take into account its general principles when approaching the modal verbs in class. According to them any lesson based on a grammatical item should contain the following stages: I. II. III. Presentation Practice Production
The success of a presentation relies on: 1. Including both oral and written forms, and both form and meaning 2. Providing plenty of contextualized, comprehensible examples of the structure; visual materials may be a good support to a presentation. 3. Use of terminology with older and more analytically-minded students. 4. Effectively using explanations in either the target language or a combination of the two. 5. Covering the great majority of instances of the structure that learners are likely to encounter; obvious exceptions should be noted, but too much detail may only confuse. 6. Deciding whether a rule is helpful or not and choosing the right way to deliver the rules; the choices are:
The inductive method – eliciting the rule from the learners on the basis of exmples The deductive method – giving the rule and inviting learners to produce examples
The second and the third stages are closely related, because when passing from practice to production, one shifts from accuracy to fluency. Here are the types of activities for the two stages as proposed by Penny Ur: 1. Awareness – is based on examples by which students are given the opportunity to encounter the structure presented and to focus their attention on its form or meaning. e.g. learners are given extracts from newspaper articles and asked to find and underline all the examples of modal verbs expressing possibility, intention etc. 2. Controlled drills Learners produce examples of the structure; these examples are however predetermined by the teacher or textbook, and have to conform to very clear, closed-ended cues. e.g. Write or say statements about Myra following the pattern: Myra can swim and so can Jill.
a) John – play tennis – Jim; b) Mary – roller-skate – Sophie etc. 3. Meaningful drills Although the responses are very controlled, learners can make a limited choice of vocabulary. e.g. Choose someone you know very well, and write down their name. Now compose true statements about them according to the following model: He/she can swim; or He/She can’t swim. a) ski b) speak Japanese c) fly an airplane. 4. Guided, meaningful practice e.g. Learners are presented a picture with a strange animal – a combination of parts of body belonging to various animals. Learners have to fill in the blanks using modals like: must, may, can’t. It _______ be a camel because it has a hump. It must be a camel because it has a hump. a) No, it ______ be a camel because camels don’t have such long necks. b) Well, it ______ a giraffe, then, because it’s got a long neck. Etc. 5. (Structure-based) free sentence composition e.g. See the example at number 4; only the picture is given, without the sentences. 6. (Structure-based) discourse composition learners hold a discussion or write a passage according to a given task; they are directed to use at least some examples of the structure within the discourse. e.g. the class is given a dilemma situation (‘You have seen a good friend cheating in an important test’) and ask to recommend a solution. They are directed to include modals (might, should, must, can, could, etc.) in their speech/writing. 7. Free discourse As in type 6, but the learners are given no specific direction to use the structure; however the task situation is such that instances of it are likely to appear. e.g. As in Type 6, but without the final direction.
CHAPTER FIVE - TRADITIONAL APPROACH TO TEACHING THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS
A traditional approach to teaching the English modal verbs is equivalent to the medium view and presupposes using the deductive method and other techniques that we shall analyze after having surveyed several traditional ways of teaching the modals as applied to four levels of proficiency. As we have mentioned earlier, the deductive method means that the teacher first introduces the modal verbs to his/her students by giving rules or theoretical explanations such as: ‘We’ll be dealing with modal verbs which form a class of special verbs within the English verbal system. They are special because they are neither auxiliary nor main verbs. They aren’t main verbs because they cannot form sentences with the subject. For instance I can say John opens the window, but a sentence like John can is incorrect. And they aren’t auxiliary verbs because, as you probably know, auxiliary verbs have no meaning. Well, the modal verbs have some meaning, more precisely they add some meaning to that of the main verb. John is swimming is not the same thing as John may be swimming.’
Such a discourse is obviously fit when teaching teenage and adult learners who are, moreover, advanced, and as Penny Ur put it, ‘more analytically-minded.’ It is my opinion that modal verbs actually do not lend themselves to being taught deductively to beginners of less than twelve years old. For this is the age at which they (I refer specifically to Romanian students) become more or less accustomed to (using ) grammatical concepts. And even so, I should think modal verbs would be difficult for them to understand if presented deductively, as there is not a word mentioned in Romanian grammar books about Romanian modal verbs. So they could not make any analogy, and the notion being completely new, they would be quite disoriented at first. With the right practice provided by controlled drills they would undoubtedly internalize the rules of using the English modal verbs, but difficulties would arise again at the production stage. Let us now see how the English modal verbs should be taught in keeping with the principles of Grammar Translation Method, as the most traditional of all teaching methods. I chose for exemplification four lessons for four levels: beginner, lower-intermediate, upper-intermediate and advanced. A. BEGINNER Title of lesson: Shopping Textbook: Limba engleza, anul I de studiu (Annexe 1) Aims:
To introduce and provide practice for new language structure (modal verbs: can and must) To introduce and practice new vocabulary items (terms related to shopping) To develop reading and writing skills
Objectives: By the end of the lesson, the students will be able to : •
Read the English text and translate it into Romanian Accurately use in writing the modal verbs: can and must Translate into English sentences containing the above modal verbs
1. The teacher asks the students to read the lesson , i.e. each student is called on to read a few lines from the text. After he/she has finished reading, he/she is asked to translate into Romanian the lines he has just read. The teacher helps him with the new vocabulary items. When the students have finished reading and translating the passage into Romanian, the teacher asks them if they have any questions. If one student does not understand what a word means, the teacher gives the meaning of the word in Romanian. As the text is being translated, the teacher writes on the blackboard the new vocabulary items which students have to transcribe in their notebooks together with their translation. The teacher addresses the students in Romanian all the time. 2. The next segment of the lesson deals with the modal verbs, which are introduced. The teacher reads the grammatical explanations (which are in Romanian) from the textbook; a student is asked to come to the blackboard and the teacher dictates to him the syntactic features of modal verbs and the corresponding examples. The other students take turns in translating these examples. The rules are given by the teacher from the very beginning. No word is mentioned about what each modal verb actually expresses. 3. The teacher asks the students to do exercise II at page 90, which is a fill-in-the-blanks exercise wherein they have to use the modal verbs. The students begin to write down the exercise, filling in the blanks of each sentence. After they have finished, the teacher calls on six students who will take turns in reading the sentences. If one has made a mistake, the teacher immediately draws his attention on it. The following exercise is written by the teacher on the blackboard and the students transcribe it into their notebooks. Situation: It’s morning now and you go to school in the afternoon. Say what things you must do before you go to school. Use: Wash Brush my teeth Make the bed get dressed Have breakfast Example: I must make the bed. do my homework have lunch wash the dishes put on my uniform leave home early
Then the students are to solve the exercise on their notebooks and when they have done that the teacher designates ten of them to read the sentences they wrote. The next exercise is a translation exercise. The teacher asks the students to translate into English the sentences of exercise 4 at page 90. The students begin again by writing the translation in their notebooks. After they are finished with this, four of them come to the blackboard to write their translation. The necessary corrections (if any) are made by the teacher and the other students (at the teacher’s request). As homework, the students have to do the following exercise: Cititi si traduceti urmatoarele scurte dialoguri si aratati: a) Ce caracteristici ale verbelor modale se observa in text; b) Ce greseala de folosire a verbului modal a facut Bob. ‘Mother, can a door speak?’ asks a girl of three. ‘No, my dear child, it cannot.’ ‘Then why do you always tell Ann to answer the door?’ Bob: ‘Father, can I play football in the street?’ Father: ‘I am sure you can but you must not.’ B. LOWER-INTERMEDIATE Title of lesson: A Breakfast on a Sunday Textbook Engleza fara profesor, vol. 1 (Annexe 2) Aims: • • To introduce and provide practice for new language structure (modal defective verbs: can, may, must, will, could, should, ought to) To develop reading and writing skills Note: Although the textbook was designed for individual study, it can be adapted to class lessons, by removing the translation of the lesson. Objectives: By the end of the lesson, the students will be able to : • • • Read the English text and translate it into Romanian Accurately use in writing the above modal verbs Translate into English sentences containing a modal verb
Recognize the meanings of the modal verbs in a written text
Activities: 1. The teacher begins by calling on students to read each a few sentences from the text. If necessary, the teacher corrects the students’ mispronunciation of words by interrupting their reading. After having read his part, each student translates it into Romanian. The teacher helps the students by giving the meanings of new words. The students write down the meanings of new words in their notebooks. The modal verbs are only translated just like any other vocabulary item. 2. In order to check the comprehension of the text, the teacher says they will do exercise 15.8 (c), page 213. It consists of a set of questions about the text, that the students will answer. One of them, designated by the teacher, reads the question, and another gives the answer. 3. The next activity starts with the teacher writing on the blackboard the title: ‘Modal Verbs’ and enumerating them for the students to put them down. Below the title he/she writes the translation in parantheses; then he/she announces in Romanian that the modal verbs have the following characteristics which he/she puts down on the blackboard as he/she says them: ‘ – nu pot fi conjugate la toate modurile si timpurile; au o forma pentru prezent, iar o parte din ele si pentru trecut. au aceeasi forma la toate persoanele: I can, you can, he can, etc.’ While the teacher delivers these explanations, the students write them down in their notebooks. After having finished the characteristics of the modal verbs, they proceed to what the teacher designates as ‘Sensurile verbelor modale’. He/ she starts with CAN which he/she writes on the blackboard, and translates it as ‘a putea, a sti sa’. Then he/she writes down two examples: Can you come tomorrow? I can’t swim. After writing each example, she asks the students to translate it. The teacher does the same thing for all the modal verbs. He/she also gives the phrasal equivalent and explains that it
is needed in order to fulfil the functions of the modals for the tenses that modal lacks a form. 4. As the first step towards practice, the teacher asks the students to identify the modal verbs in the text they have just read. The students take turns in finding the modals and also translate them once again. The teacher says in Romanian that they are going to do exercise 15.5 at page 211, so they should open their books at that page. The teacher reads aloud the requirement and asks the students whether they have understood it. The students solve the exercise in their notebooks. Afterwards, at the teacher’s request, each of them will read aloud one sentence. Where necessary, the teacher corrects them immediately. A series of drills follows. They are written on the blackboard by the teacher while the students copy them on their notebooks. I. Situation: a) Yesterday Mr Brown went on a trip. He had to do a lot of things before he went away. Example: Buy a train ticket He had to buy a train ticket yesterday. 1. Pay for the train ticket 2. Make some phone calls 3. Finish his work 4. Buy a newspaper to read on the train
5. Hurry back home 6. Wash 7. Change his clothes 8. Hurry to the station
Tomorrow Adrian will be on duty in the street. He will help the traffic policeman with his work. Say what he will have to do.
Example: Stand near the traffic lights Adrian will have to stand near the traffic lights tomorrow. 1. help the policeman on duty 2. explain the traffic rules to little children 3. tell people the way 4. help old people to cross the road 5. stop the cars when the traffic light is red 6. let the people cross then
II. a) Make up Aunt Martha’s questions and Mother’s answers.
Example: Stand/yes Aunt Martha: Can the baby stand yet? Mother: Yes, he’s already able to stand. Talk/no Aunt Martha: Can the baby talk yet? Mother: No, he isn’t able to talk yet. 1. walk/no 2. stand up/yes 3. sit/yes 4. run/no 5. speak very well/no 6. say mummy and daddy/yes 7. laugh/yes 8. sing/no
c) What will the baby be able to do soon? Make sentences: Example: He can already sit. (stand up) He’ll soon be able to stand up. 1. He can already say mummy and daddy. (say hello) 2. He can already say a few words. (speak very well) 3. He can already stand. (walk) 4. He can already pick up things. (put them down) 5. He can already eat soup. (eat steak) 6. He can already understand my questions. (answer my questions) All these drills are done in the same way: after the teacher writes each of them on the blackboard, the students solve them on their notebook. Next, as they are designated by the teacher, each of them quickly reads one sentence. The teacher makes the necessary corrections on the spot, even if that means interrupting the student who is reading the sentence. 5. The teacher informs the students they will take down a short dictation. She reads aloud, slowly the following passage:
There’s no sugar left. I must buy some tomorrow. Will you have some coffee? The coffee is too strong. I can’t drink it. May I have some butter? You shouldn’t eat the butter because it’s rancid. The marmelade is so bitter. I can’t eat it. All of you ought to be more polite and should not complain so much. The teacher stops after each sentence so that the students would be able to put it down. He/she reads the text once again at slow pace, but without stops. As homework, students are asked to do exercise 15.6 (a) at page 211.. The students have to translate a number of sentences into English. C. UPPER-INTERMEDIATE Title of lesson: Revision Textbook: A.J. Thompson & A.V. Martinet, Exercises 2, Teste de limba engleza (see Bibliography) Aims: • • To provide practice for the revision of the modal verbs Develop reading and writing skills
Objectives: By the end of the lesson the students will be able to: • • • Understand the meanings of the modal verbs Translate (from English into Romanian and the other way round) these meanings and sentences in which they occur Accurately use the modal verbs in writing Activities: For this revision lesson the teacher has brought several exercise-books. He/she will write the exercises on the blackboard. A. Fill the following spaces, using can, could, be able to, may, might, needn’t, can’t etc. and add the perfect infinitive where necessary. 1. … you stand on your head? I … when I was at school but I … now. (2nd verb negative) 2. When you have taken your degree you … put letters after your name?
3. It … rain, you’d better take a coat. 4. Warning: No part of this book … be reproduced without the publisher’s permission. 5. She … leave home at eight every morning at present. 6. You … ring the bell; I have a key. 7. You … talk to the candidates during the exam. 8. Did you hear me come in last night? No, I … (be) asleep. 9. He … (walk) from here to London in two hours. It isn’t possible. 10. I left my bicycle here and now it’s gone. Someone … (borrow) it. B. Use the perfect infinitive of the verbs in brackets with the appropriate modal. Phrases in bold type should not be repeated but their meaning should be expressed by modal verb + perfect infinitive. You (bought) bread, which was not necessary. You needn’t have bought bread. 1. To someone who was not at the party: ‘We had a wonderful time; you (be) there’.
It is possible that Shakespeare (write) it. Shakespeare (not write) it because events are mentioned that didn’t occur till after Shakespeare’s time. You (send) a telegram, which was quite unnecessary; a letter would have done. You (leave) a note. (It was inconsiderate of you not to do so.) I saw them in the street but they didn’t stop to speak to me. It is possible that they (be) in a hurry.
3. 4. 5.
6. They (be) married next week but now they have quarrelled and the wedding has been cancelled.
He (thank) us. (We are offended that he didn’t.) I (go) on Tuesday (this was the plan). But on Tuesday I had a terrible cold so I decided to wait till Wednesday. You (apologize), which was not necessary.
10. If they had gone any further they (fall) over a precipice. C. Translate into English: 1) Nu se poate ca el sa fi picat acest examen. Era atit de bine pregatit.
2) Are atitea de facut. Se poate sa fi uitat de intilnirea noastra. 3) Nu se simtea vinovata. Nu s-ar fi putut scuza pentru ceva ce nu facuse. 4) Tom ar putea sa vrea sa-si schimbe slujba. 5) Se poate sa-ti fi lasat cheile la birou. 6) Va trebui sa scrii testul vineri. 7) Trebuie sa fi fost foarte tinara cind a izbucnit razboiul. 8) Nu e nevoie ca scrisoarea sa fie semnata de director. The students transcribe it from the blackboard and do it which does not take too long. They solve the exercises one at a time. After each of them, they check their answers with the teacher who gives them the correct solution in case they are wrong. they read aloud the sentences (each student reads one sentence). D. ADVANCED Title of lesson: The Modal (Defective) Verbs Textbook: Limba engleza –Curs practic (Annexe 3) Ains: • • To revise the modal verbs To develop reading and writing skills
Objectives: By the end of the lesson the students will be able to: • • • Express the meanings of the modal verbs in English Accurately use the modal verbs in various written texts Translate into English sentences containing a modal verb
Activities: 1. The teacher asks two students to read on roles the first part of the lesson. After the first twenty cues, they are told to stop and translate what they have read. Then the reading is resumed with two other students ‘playing the parts’ of Adrian and Eva. They too stop after the next twenty cues and translate them into Romanian. Throughout the reading of the passage the teacher designates the students who are to read the cues, helps them with the new vocabulary items and pronunciation of new words, corrects them when they make a mistake.
2. At the end of part one, he/she writes on the blackboard the following revision scheme: + MUST HAVE TO HAVE GOT TO SHOULD OUGHT TO _ ?
Under each modal in the chart she leaves room for examples; she invites the students to come to the blackboard and write down examples (other than those in the text) with modal verbs and also the negative and interrogative form of each modal. The teacher addresses the students in Romanian; she never gives the Romanian translation of any of the modal verbs or expressions. She insists that each student should paraphrase the examples he/she has given. The teacher asks the students about the differences in meaning between modal verbs and their paraphrases. 3. The next step is exercises I (the first ten sentences) and III at page 148, the former a fillin-the-blanks, the latter dealing with rephrasing words so as to use modal verbs. The exercises have no model. So before the students start writing them on their notebooks, the teacher asks two of them to do the first two sentences of each. The students work individually. They do not check answers in pairs. When they have finished the first exercise, each of them starts reading aloud one sentence. There follows a translation exercise (IV, page 149), of which the students are asked to do only the first eight sentences. Again they do these sentences in writing, and in the end they will take turns in reading their translations. The teacher is the one who appoints them and corrects their mistakes. As homework, the students are to translate the remainder of exercise IV and the following literary text from Oliver Sterne. Lawrence Sterne – The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy My father took a single turn across the room, then sat down, and finished the chapter. The verbs auxiliary we are concerned in here, continued my father, are am; was; have; had; can; could; owe; ought; used; or is wont. […] Now, by the right use and application of these, continued my father, in which a child’s memory should be exercised, there is no one idea can enter his brain, how barren soever,
but a magazine of conceptions and conclusions may be drawn forth from it. – Didst thou ever see a white bear? Cried my father, turning his head round to Trim, who stood at the back of his chair. – No. an’ please your honour, replied the corporal. – But thou couldst discourse about one, Trim, said my father, in case of need? – How is it possible, brother, quoth my uncle Toby, if the corporal never saw one? – ‘Tis the fact I want, replied my father, - and the possibility of it is as follows.
A WHITE BEAR!
Very well. Have I ever seen one? Might I ever have seen one? Am I ever to
see one? Ought I ever to have seen one? Or can I ever see one? Would I had seen a white bear! (for how can I imagine it?) If I should see a white bear, what would I say? If I should never see a whit e bear, what then? If I never have, can, must, or shall see a white bear alive; have I ever seen the skin of one? Did I ever see one painted? – described? Have I never dreamed of one? Did my father, mother, uncle, aunt, brothers or sisters, ever see a white bear? What would they give? How would they behave? How would the white bear have behaved? Is he wild? Tame? Terrible? Rough? Smooth? Is the white bear worth seeing? Is there no sin in it? –
Is it better than a BLACK ONE? Having seen all these four lessons on modal verbs taught in accordance with the principles of Grammar Translation Method, the time has come now to draw some conclusions. From one level to another, they look monotonous, solely relying on some text that is read aloud by students, mechanical drills (mostly fill-in-the-blanks) and decontextualized translation. On first reading the texts proposed one cannot escape the feeling of awkwardness. The culmination of awkwardness seems to be reached by the text for the advanced level, which is devised as a kind of Platonic dialogue on modal verbs and their meanings. And now we can define awkwardness by artificiality, for it is hardly plausible that two friends or colleagues should chat about modal verbs and their grammatical features. Of course the authors meant well by introducing such texts and they perhaps wanted to provide some context for modal verbs, some starting point for their study. But they failed to do so,
equating the context (a real-life situation) with an artificial situation, and the starting point with the study itself. The consequence is an extremely long and boring text that can hardly captivate even the most analytically-minded students. Another important drawback of this traditional way of learning is that it does not imply the student-student interaction and communication, which is vital for modal verbs, for we shall further see that it is through modal verbs that the vast majority of language functions are accomplished. By focusing on accuracy, this method facilitates the internalization of the structure and of the rules that govern it, and modal verbs usually necessitate it due to their idiosyncrasy and irregularity. Translation is one of the techniques which, used reasonable/in the right proportion, can be turned to good account for it gives you the opportunity to see how the same English structure may take various Romanian forms and the other way round.
CHAPTER SIX - COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH TO TEACHING THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) lays emphasis on language function, because, say the theorists of this approach, when we communicate, we use the language to accomplish some function, such as arguing, persuading, or promising. Very often functions are ‘binary’; that is to say, the performance of one implies a certain response or set of responses which take the form of another, complementary function. Suggestions or invitations, for example, are typically followed by acceptance or rejection; greeting by acknowledgement or further greeting; and so on. ‘Unitary’ functions may occur on their own – informing for example – with no necessary expected response. However, whether a specific instance of a function is binary or unitary would, of course, depend on its actual context. So function is crucial to language and, as we shall see, modal verbs are crucial to functions. In their book FUNCTION IN ENGLISH, Jon Blundell, Jonathan Higgens, and Nigel Middlemiss list 140 language functions in 4 sections: Sectin 1 - About information, about attitudes, about action; Section 2 – Social formulas, Section 3 – Making communication work, Section 4 – Finding out about language. The following functions are listed: Section 1 - About information Asking for information Asking if someone knows about something Saying you know about something Saying you do not know Reminding Asking about remembering Saying you remember Saying you have forgotten Asking if something is correct
Saying something is correct Saying something is not correct Correcting someone About attitudes Asking if someone is sure about something Saying you are sure Saying what you think is possible or probable Saying you are not sure Saying what you think is improbable or impossible Talking about what might happen Asking how someone feels before something happens Saying you are curious Saying what you hope will happen Saying what you want Saying you are looking forward to something Saying you are optimistic Saying you are pessimistic Saying you are worried or afraid Asking how someone feels after something happens Expressing surprise Saying you are pleased Saying you are displeased or angry Saying you are relieved Saying you are disappointed Saying you are excited Saying you are bored Calming or reassuring someone Asking about likes Expressing likes Expressing dislikes Asking about preference
Saying what you prefer Asking if someone approves Saying you approve Saying you do not approve Comparing Saying something is not important Asking for someone’s opinion Giving your opinion Saying you have no opinion Avoiding giving an opinion Trying to change someone’s opinion Asking if someone is interested Saying you are interested Saying you are not interested Giving reasons Asking if someone agrees Agreeing Disagreeing Saying you partly agree Saying you are wrong and someone else is right Saying you have reached agreement About action Offering to do something for someone Accepting an offer of help Refusing an offer of help Saying what you think you ought to do Saying what you think you ought not to do Saying you intend to do something Saying you do not intend to do something Asking if someone is able to do something Saying you are able to do something
Saying you are not able to do something Asking for permission Giving permission Refusing permission Asking if you are obliged to do something Saying someone is obliged to do something Saying someone must not do something Telling someone to do something Saying someone need not do something Telling someone how to do something Asking for advice Advising someone to do something Advising someone not to do something Warning someone Suggesting Requesting Encouraging Persuading Complaining Threatening Saying you are willing to do something Saying you are willing to do something under certain conditions Saying you are unwilling to do something Refusing to do something Section 2 - Social formulas Starting a conversation with a stranger Introducing yourself Introducing someone Answering an introduction Attracting someone’s attention Greeting someone
Asking how someone is Saying how you are Giving someone your general good wishes Responding to general good wishes Giving someone good wishes on a special occasion Responding to good wishes on a special occasion Proposing a toast Inviting someone Accepting an invitation Declining an invitation Offering something Accepting an offer of something Declining an offer of something Giving something to someone Thanking Responding to thanks Complimenting Congratulating Responding to compliments or congratulations Saying sorry Accepting an apology Showing sympathy Leaving someone politely for a short time Ending a conversation Saying goodbye Section 3 - Making communication work Asking someone to say something again Checking you have understood Checking that someone has understood you Saying someone again Saying something in another way
Giving an example Showing you are listening Taking up a point Giving yourself time to think Changing the subject Summing up Section 4 - Finding out about language Finding out about pronunciation Finding out about spelling Finding out about correctness Finding out about meaning Finding out about appropriateness Out of them only about 27 (saying you are pleased/relieved/excited/bored etc., greeting, saying goodbye, responding to thanks/to general good wishes, accepting an offer/an apology etc) are not realized by means of modal verbs. A conclusion would seem to be that the English modal verbs are essential to communication, to performing the abovementioned functions. Moreover, in each functional section the various expressions are grouped into informal and informal expressions. Modal verbs have been noticed to occur more frequently under the formal heading, their use being one of nuancing, of softening a request, of dissimulating purposes etc. CLT tries to place its techniques at the student’s disposal in order to facilitate the accomplishment of language function, and therefore of communication. Let us see how successful it is by looking into some ‘communicative lessons’. 1. BEGINNER Title of lesson: Unit Textbook: Splash, 3rd grade (Annexe 4) Aims: • •
To activate the students background knowledge about animals To practice language function (obligation) To practice language structure (modal must)
To develop listening, speaking and reading skills To enlarge vocabulary area (wild animals + tortoise, slowly, meat, take for a walk)
Objectives: By the end of the lesson the students will be able to:
To understand the obligation meaning of modal must To accurately use this modal verb when speaking about taking care of a pet
Auxiliary materials: cassette-player, cassette, drawings representing animals, world map, animal toys Activities: 1. Check homework 2. Brainstorming a) Teacher asks the pupils to take out their toys; explains they are going to talk about pets; asks the pupils in Romanian if they know the meaning of the word; if they don’t, he/she explains what a pet is; makes the distinction wild animal – tame animal; asks the pupils: Have you got a pet? What is it? b) Pre-listening The teacher and the pupils talk about the story in the textbook in Romanian; they identify the characters and try to guess what happens. The teacher asks question such as: Who is in picture no 1? What is he/she doing? What has he/she got? What’s that in picture no 2? Etc. 3. Listening The teacher announces the pupils they will listen to the cassette. The pupils follow the text as they listen. 4. Post-listening Teacher teaches the new words must and mustn’t by giving commands/instructions: Mihai, go to the blackboard! (the boy goes to the blackboard) Sorina, you must go to the blackboard! Teacher signals what she has to do by indicating the blackboard then he/she asks other pupils to repeat the instruction. Teacher sees a pupil who is whispering something to his deskmate and says: Razvan, don’t speak! You mustn’t speak! And he/she waves her index meaning ‘no’; then asks other pupils to repeat.
Next he/she asks: ‘Do you understand?’ A pupil answers ‘no’ and asks in Romanian what must means. The teacher answers ‘trebuie’. There follow other explanations concerning lexical items, which are irrelevant to the current study. Teacher asks the pupils questions about the story: What does Ben want? Who’s got some hamsters? How many hamsters has she got? What must Ben look after? How must he look after the hamster? Teacher plays the dialogue again, pausing after each cue for pupils to repeat. 5. Play on roles (twice) Teacher announces they are going to play the story on roles and designates the pupils. 6. Pairwork Teacher says they will do pairwork or speak with the deskmate about looking after hamsters. He/she chooses a pupil and they play the dialogue in front of the class in order to offer a model of what they should do. 7. Listening – Which pet are they describing? Teacher: ‘I’ve got this hippo (shows the toy), but other people have got other pets like those in the book. Let us see these pets. (shows the picture) What is it?’ Pupils answer: ‘Dog.’ Teacher asks: ‘What does a dog eat?’ etc. Teacher plays the cassette; pupils listen and point to the right image. Teacher walks among them to see what they point to. After having listening to the cassette, teacher asks: Which pet can talk? Which pet can climb trees? Which pet can fly? Etc. Teacher designates the pupils who are to answer these questions. Teacher writes on the blackboard their homework (Activity Book ex. 1 p. 44 + write down the lesson)
B. LOWER-INTERMEDIATE Title of lesson: Unit 8 Textbook: Headway Aims: • • • • To develop listening, speaking and writing skills. To introduce and practice language structure: have to, should. To introduce and practice language functions: asking for and giving advice. To develop critical thinking
Objectives: By the end of the lesson the students will be able to: • • • • • Accurately use the modal verbs have to and should in both spoken and written English. To express their opinions about teenage problems. To give and ask for advice regarding teenage problems. To discriminate between the advantages and disadvantages of a job. To speak about the responsibilities of various jobs.
Activities: 1. Warm-up – discussion The teacher describes to students the following situation: Kathy has left her job as a shopassistant because she wants to open a restaurant. She asks the students to think about the advantages and disadvantages of having a restaurant. She draws on the blackboard the following table:
Advantages of having a restaurant
Disadvantages of having a restaurant
And he/she gives as examples the sentences below:
You have to work all day. (disadv.) You can earn a lot of money. (adv.)
He/she asks the students to use structures like can, have to. Students come to the blackboard and write down advantages and disadvantages. 2. The teacher asks the students to say, in English, what can and have to mean. If not, they might as well explain in Romanian the meanings of the two modals. 3. Then the teacher writes on the board the following chart: Politicians Postmen/women Teachers Nurses Air hostesses Factory workers The students transcribe it into their notebooks and will make as many sentences as possible from it. They will work in pairs, and at the end of the activity selected students reads their answers that are thus checked. For the next activity, teacher distributes handouts with pictures of jobs. She tells the students they are to work in pairs. One of the students in each pair is to choose one of the jobs from the pictures and should not tell his/her partner what it is. In order to find out what it is the partner will ask such questions as: Do you have to work outside/use your hands/be fit/be good at … ? The others answer by: Yes, I do./No, I don’t. Then, still in pairs, they have to ask each other: Which of the jobs wouldn’t you like to do and why? The teacher asks a student to pose the question to her, which he/she does, so the teacher answers thus offering an exemplification of what they have to do and how they have to do it. During the activity, the teacher walks among the students monitoring their conversations and offering assistance and advice. At the end of the activity, the teacher goes to the board and explains the students that the past tense form of have to is had to. She writes down: Present have to
work in shifts. do some/any work at home. Have to Don’t have to wear a uniform. make speeches. get up early.
Past had to
And the example is: Kathy didn’t like her job as shop assistant because she had to wear a uniform. To tackle the next activity, the teacher asks the students whether they have ever had problems specific to their age and what sort of problems were they. She explains that in most daily newspapers there is an advice column (sometimes called ‘Dear Abby’) for such problems. With that the teacher distributes handouts comprising 3 headings to 3 letters, 3 fragments of 3 letters and the corresponding answers and he/she asks the students to match them. She asks them whether they agree with the advice. After having checked the answers, the teacher asks the students to find the verbs used to ask for or give a suggestion. According to what the students have found, the teacher writes on the board: You should cook for yourself. He/she contrasts the sentence with: You have to cook for yourself. He/she asks the students which sentence expresses obligation. Conclusion of the discussion (put down on the board):
Have to – strong obligation Should – mild obligation or advice Don’t have to – absence of obligation
For the next activity, the teacher divides the class into groups of four. She gives the same handout to each member of a group. On the handouts there is a problem similar to those above. Each group has to write a letter of reply; the students are to express sympathy with the problem and give some explanation as well as practical advice. As homework they are to translate into Romanian: 1. Nurses have to work long hours. 2. I don’t have to get up early at the weekend. 3. You should see a doctor. And into English:
Nu e nevoie sa-ti iei umbrela. A stat ploaia.
2. E un concert bun la televizor. N-ar trebui sa-l pierzi. 3. Era prea tirziu si a trebuit sa iau um taxi. They also have write a few sentences about learning to drive. HANDOUT
Never been kissed
I live on a farm, and I have started thinking about animal rights. Now I am a vegetarian. My problem is that my parents are furious. My Mum doesn’t cook anything different for me, so every night all I eat is vegetables and bread and cheese. I don’t think this is fair. Why can’t she cook me something tasty? Michelle, 17
Food for thought
To dye, or not to dye
I’m 16 and I have never been out with a girl. I’ve never even kissed one. My friends have all had lots of girlfriends, but girls don’t seem to be interested in me. now I tell everyone I have a girlfriend in France, but I don’t think they believe me. what should I do? Richard, 16
My parents went away on holiday recently, so I decided to dye my hair. I am blonde and dyed my hair black. Now it looks awful and I don’t know what to do. A couple of days ago my parents came home, and when my Mum saw my hair, she went completely mad. Now, as a punishment, she says I can’t dye it back. What should I do? Lucy, 16 People of your age, I think you’re being a little especially boys, often tell selfish. You chose to stop stories about their eating meat, not your experiences. I’m sure some parents. Your mother is of your friends are telling probably a very busy stories too! You shouldn’t woman. I think you should tell lies, because that will cook for yourself. Baked make you feel more worried, potatoes are very easy! and people will learn the truth sooner or later. Don’t worry about not having a girlfriend. Your time will come.
I think you should dye your hair back to its original colour. Tell your mother first that this is what you’re going to do if you want to, but I’m sure she’ll be pleased to see her ‘old’ daughter again.
C. UPPER-INTERMEDIATE Title of lesson: Unit 10, restrictions Textbook: Masterclass, First Certificate
Aims: • • • To develop speaking, writing and reading skills To revise the modal verbs (have to, should) To practice language function (giving advice)
Objectives: By the end of the lesson the students will be able to:
Accurately use should and have to in order to express their opinions about what it takes to do various jobs. Express rules and regulations using must, mustn’t and needn’t. Speak about one can/can’t do at different ages.
Activities: 1. Warm-up – discussion The teacher sticks on the blackboard pictures representing a top fashion model, professional ballet dancers, ceremonial guards, sumo wrestlers, monks, schoolboys, heads of state. He/she asks the students to look carefully at the pictures and say who has the easiest/hardest life and what makes these people’s life harder or easier than the others. He/she exemplifies: Ceremonial guards have to wear uniforms and take part in official ceremonies. Heads of state can’t go anywhere without bodyguards. The teacher writes some of the students’ answers on the blackboard and underlines the modal verbs. After the students answer these questions, the teacher asks them to think of people whose lives are restricted in other ways. 2. In order to pass to the next activity the teacher explains that he/she has underlined the modal verbs in the sentences on the blackboard because they are going to revise the meaning of some modal verbs. He/she further makes use of a transparency on which the following exercise is written: 1. You don’t have to worry about what you a. a necessity put on in the mornings. 2. Pupils must wear ties at all times. b. a strong suggestion, a piece of advice or an invitation
3. Boys must not wear earrings while at school. 4. You must come and see my new collection. 5. I have to lose a couple of kilos for the next job. 6. You mustn’t let the press attention go to your head. 7. I need to get right away from the business.
c. a rule, law or prohibition d. a personal obligation outside the speaker’s control e. a lack of necessity or obligation
The students are to transcribe what is written on the transparency and in pair to match the sentence on the left column with the information on the right column. After having finished they discuss their answers together with the teacher. 3. Then they receive the handouts with the exercises whose solutions they have to write on their notebooks. The teacher asks them to work in pairs for exercises A, B and C, which they check at the end of them all. For exercise C, the teacher divides the class into groups of four, each group having a secretary. At the end of the activity, every secretary reads to/tell the class the findings of his/her group and the students in the other groups check their answers. As a follow-up to this activity, the teacher asks the students to make similar charts for our country. They will work within the same group and the activity will proceed like the previous one. For the next activity, which is a bit of a role-play, the students get slips of paper with their identities and what they have to say. Student A You are a famous sumo wrestler training for the world championships. You are tired of weighing 180 kilos, and want to be slim. Tell your trainer you have decided to go on a diet, and explain why. Student B You are the coach of a famous sumo wrestler who is training for the world championships and who has suddenly decided to go on a diet. Advise him not to do so and explain why. Each student reads the information on his/her slip of paper. The teacher asks the students whether they have understood what and how they have to talk about. He/she answers the
students’ questions, and they then start talking among themselves. The teacher walks from one pair to another offering assistance and monitoring the conversations. As a homework, the students have to work in groups of three and design a leaflet which gives tourists information about driving on British motorways. The teacher draws their attention on the use of modal verbs: must is used for all legal obligations, and need for things that are physically necessary. He/she writes on the blackboard some sentences that they should use as starting points: If you are feeling tired, you … Learner drivers … Petrol stations may be up to 80 miles apart on some motorway. You … Drive at a safe speed. You … If you have a mechanical problem you … If driving long distances makes you feel sleepy, you …
HANDOUT A. Rewrite these sentences, without changing their meaning, and without the verbs in italics. The first one has been done for you.
You mustn’t drive if you’ve drunk too much alcohol. It’s against the law to drive if you’ve drunk too much alcohol.
2. You shouldn’t sunbathe for too long. It can damage you health.
British people needn’t vote in general elections if they don’t want to. Soldiers don’t have to wear uniforms when they are off duty.
5. You mustn’t worry about me. I’ve travelled on my own before. Didn’t need / needn’t have What is the difference in meaning between these sentences? 1. I didn’t need to hurry. There was plenty of time. 2. I needn’t have hurried. There was plenty of time.
In which sentence did the speaker hurry? B. Fill the gaps in these sentences with didn’t need to or needn’t have and the correct part of the verbs in italics.
I went to the airport to meet him. Unfortunately he was ill and had to cancel his trip, so I ________ drive all that day. I was about to go shopping when David arrived home with everything we needed, so I ________ go after all. The car was really dirty, but then it rained for a couple of hours, so I ________ wash it. I carried my umbrella all day but it didn’t rained once. I ________ take my umbrella. Last year my father won $ 1 million. He ________ work any more, so he gave up his job. That was a lovely meal, but you ________ go to so much trouble.
3. 4. 5.
C. Read this extract from a speech made by a college director talking to a new group of students. From the list below choose the best verb to fill the gaps. Sometimes more than one answer is possible. must mustn’t should don’t have to will need to first of all, and most importantly, you (1) ______ enrol and pay your fees today, otherwise you will not be allowed to start your course. According to the college regulations, you (2) ______ attend a minimum of 80% of your classes but actually, if you want to do well in your exams, you (3) ______ try to attend all your classes. If you have no classes on a particular day, you (4) ______ stay at the college. You can stay at home if you like. If you are planning to come by car or motorbike, you (5) ______ get a permit from the college office. And lastly, please remember that this is a no-smoking college, which means that you (6) ______ smoke inside the building at any time. D. This chart gives information about the ages at which young people in Britain are allowed to do certain things. Study the information and make sentences using can and be allowed to. Examples: When you’re twelve you’re allowed to buy pets.
You can’t buy pets until you’re twelve.
Buy pets Get a parttime job Go into a pub or bar Drink alcohol in a pub or bar Leave school Buy cigarette s Vote in elections Become a member of parliam ent Become a soldier Get a driving licence
Age 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
∨ ∨ ∨ ∨ ∨ ∨ ∨
D. ADVANCED Title of lesson: Revision Textbook: Masterclass, Proficiency Aims: • • • To revise language structure (modal verbs) To practice language function (suggesting) To develop speaking, listening and writing skills
Objectives: By the end of the lesson the students will be able to: • • Accurately use the modal verbs both in spoken and written English Express certainty, probability, possibility, obligation, lack of obligation
Activities: 1. Warm-up – discussion
The teacher shows the students the image of the Titanic, drawing their attention on what seems to be the figure of a man at the top of the first funnel. He/she asks them to think about a possible explanation for this fact. The students come up with various ideas. The teacher writes on the blackboard: It can/could/may/might be … It can’t be … It must be … He/she asks the students to say which sentences refer to: probability, deduction or strong conclusion, strong or weak possibility, impossibility. A student comes to the blackboard and matches the sentences with the above notions. 2. The teacher asks the student to do exercise A on the handout. While they do it, he/she writes the table below on the board: Infinitive Present Present progressive Perfect Perfect progressive Active Passive
The teacher asks the students to classify the infinitives as to whether they are present, simple or progressive, active or passive. Selected students will come to the board and place the infinitives on the table. At the end, the teacher reminds students that although progressive passive forms exist, they are normally avoided. Exercise B will be done as pairwork and at the end of it, the teacher asks the students the following questions: • • • • • • Which sentences express a definite positive deduction? Which sentences express a present or future obligation? Which sentences express a past obligation that was not fulfilled? Which sentence expresses a past obligation that was fulfilled? Which forms of the infinitive can follow must to express obligation? Which forms of the infinitive be used with must to express deduction?
Exercise C is again pairwork. At the end the teacher and the students check the transformations.
Before proceeding with exercise D, the teacher writes on the board the following sentences: 1. They said we needed to have a vaccination so we did. / but we never got round to it. 2. They said we didn’t need to have any vaccinations but we did anyway, just to be on the safe side. / so we didn’t. 3. They said we needn’t have had any vaccinations but by then it was too late because we’d already had them. 4. They said we should have had vaccinations and that was why they were refusing us entry. 5. They said we shouldn’t have had vaccinations because they were now thought to be unsafe. Then he/she draws on the board the table below: No of the sentence Action was not necessary, but has already been taken anyway Action was necessary of obligatory, and it was wrong not to have taken it Action was not necessary, or was prohibited, and it was wrong to have taken it Action was not necessary, and may or may not have been taken subsequently Action was unnecessary and may or may not have been taken subsequently. Selected students come to the board and complete the table. Exercise D follows as pairwork. As homework, students receive handouts with three texts; they are to identify the type of text and the function of the modal verbs. I. But most Americans should be shocked to know that while the country’s economy is going down the tubes, the military has wasted a half-billion dollars over the past decade chasing down gays and running them out of the armed services. When the facts lead to one conclusion, I say it’s time to act, not hide. The country and the military know that eventually the ban will be lifted. The only remaining questions are how much muck we will all be dragged through, and how many brave Americans will have their lives and careers destroyed in a senseless attempt to stall the inevitable.
Some in Congress think I’m wrong. They say we absolutely must continue to discriminate, or all hell will break loose. Who knows, they say, perhaps our soldiers may even take up arms against each other. Well, that’s just stupid. II. The License is non-transferable. Except as provided in the next sentence, User may not sell, assign or otherwise transfer the Product or the License to any other person […] User may transfer the License to any of its wholly-owned subsidiaries or any party of which User is a wholly-owned subsidiary, provided that prior written notice of the transfer is given to Silvester Inc. The License is perpetual. User shall have the right to use the Product in the normal course of its business, on a specified computer or data centre in accordance with the license classification and scope of use description, set forth in this Agreement. III. Consider insurance: if you’re really worried about protecting stocks, it may be time to think about a little insurance: options. Options, contracts that give you the right, or the obligation, to buy or sell a particular stock at a set price, can be highly speculative, risky investments. But used properly ‘they’re great hedging vehicles for a portfolio,’ says Michael Schwartz, chief options strategist at CIBC Oppenheimer in New York. The Dell February 45 contracts, for instance, give you the right to sell Dell at 45 prior to their expiration in late February. That means no matter how far Dell slips, you can sell your stock at $45 a share. Your downside risk is just $1 a share.
A. Read these comments about the photograph of the Titanic and fill in the blanks in the transformations with the correct infinitive form. 1. Perhaps it is a genuine photograph. It might ……….. a genuine photograph.
2. Perhaps the man in the photo is standing in front of the funnel. The man in the photograph might ………. in front of the funnel. 3. Maybe someone tampered with the photo. Someone might ………….. with the photo. 4. Perhaps the man in the picture was repairing something in the funnel. The man in the picture might ……….. something in the funnel. 5. Perhaps the mystery will be solved in the future. The mystery might ……….. in the future. 6. Maybe one photograph was superimposed on to another one. One photograph might …………. on to another one. B. Join up the two parts of the following sentences: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. He must be in the garden … The application form must be returned … The back door must be locked so …. The back door must be locked …. He should nave been wearing a tie … I had to study Latin … He was supposed to pick Jane up from the (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) Because I can’t open it. But his car broke down. Because I can hear the lawn mower. That burglars don’t get in. Because it never arrived. By the end of next week at the latest. When I was eleven.
airport … 8. You must have sent the letter to the wrong address …. C. Rewrite the following sentences:
(h) But he wasn’t, so they didn’t let him into the restaurant.
1) It is essential that you get to the airport on time. You …. 2) I am convinced that there is come mistake with this bill – it’s astronomical. There … 3) You should have got here over an hour ago – what kept you? You … 4) If you hadn’t been speeding, the police wouldn’t have stopped you. You must … 5) They made us go to church every Sunday when we were at school. We had … 6) It’s a pity you didn’t come to the party, because you’d have loved it. You should … 7) It is essential that no one is told about our plans. You … 8) It was wrong of you not to call the doctor at once. You should … D. Fill in the blanks. Use either needed to, didn’t need to, should have, needn’t have or shouldn’t have and a suitable verb. The first one has been done as an example.
I didn’t need to take the parcel to the Post Office because Sonia very kindly took it foe me.
2) We discovered when we arrived on the island that we ………. in advance because there were lots of villas for rent. 3) We only realized when we got to the island that we ……….. in advance as there was nowhere to stay. 4) Although we ……….. comprehensive insurance, we got it anyway just to be on the safe side. 5) I think you deserve to be punished – you ………… the car without asking your father first. 6) He told the taxi driver he ………….. to the airport as quickly as possible, as the plane was due to leave soon. 7) I ………… so much time worrying about the test, because in the end it was really easy and I passed first time. 8) The policeman was furious with me and said that I ………….. so fast in a residential area. E. Look at sentences 1-10. In which of the sentences do the modal verbs express the following: ability, permission, deduction, future possibility, irritation, an unfulfilled possibility. 1. It’s very late in the day to cancel- I do think you might have let me know a little earlier. 2. He could have been a great politician, but he chose instead to become a priest. 3. Judging from the architecture, this photo might have been taken in Spain. 4. I was wondering whether I could come and see you next week. 5. You can’t have phoned on Tuesday, because I was in all day. 6. It was such a bad line, I couldn’t hear what she was saying. 7. You could have phoned to tell us you were all right. Why on earth didn’t you ring? 8. There could be severe unrest if the economy doesn’t improve before the winter. 9. Excuse me, sir. Might I ask whether you intend to stay at the hotel for another night? 10. If I pass all my exams, I may take a year off and travel round the world.
To conclude, CLT offers the following advantages: 1. It introduces all skills from the very beginning (the lesson for the beginner level contains all skills) 2. It lays emphasis on fluency and communication through its three features: ♦ Information gap – a person knows something that the other person doesn’t (present in activity 7, beginner; activity 3, lower-intermediate; role-play, exercise D, homework, upper-intermediate; exercise B, advanced.) ♦ Choice – of the speaker as to what and how he/she will say (present in activity 6, beginner; activity 3, lower-intermediate; role-play, exercise D, homework, upperintermediate) ♦ Feedback – the speaker can evaluate whether or not his/her purpose has been achieved based upon the information he/she receives from the listener (present in activity 3, lower-intermediate, role-play, exercise D, homework, upper-intermediate) 3. It makes use of authentic materials (homework, advanced) 4. The lessons are more entertaining, captivating, implying students’ interest and involvement in what they are doing. 5. It uses real-life situations. In spite all these advantages, CLT has a number of drawbacks that cannot be overlooked, namely: 1. It emphasizes fluency over accuracy which is why, most of the times, the students themselves recongnize they can speak easily but fail to write something correctly. 2. It emphasizes functions over structures although they are not more important than structures. We have enumerated a multitude of functions in the beginning of this chapter, but their number cannot convince us of their prevalence over structures. In fact many of them can be reduced to only one. For instance, saying you are curious/optimistic/pessimistic/worried or afraid can be reduced to expressing an attitude. And we should also remember that we only realize functions through structures and the other way round. 3. The communicative activities produce a lot of noise, which is tiring for both students and teachers.
4. It is true that it makes use of real-life situations but within the limited context of the classroom so a lot of their ‘naturalness’ is suppressed. 5. Informal testing is more subjective than formal evaluation, and it can be easily contested. I have set in parallel these two methodological approaches, their weak points and good points, not to show their incompatibility, but their complementarity which can be seen in the table below. The table comprises those principles that the two approaches focus on. Grammar Translation Reading and writing skills Structure Accuracy Teacher control Communicative approach Speaking and listening Function Fluency Student autonomy
The way the teachers would resort to the various techniques proposed by the two views largely depends upon a number of factors such as: the students’ level of proficiency, their age, what is taught, whether or not there is a textbook at hand. It is generally held that Grammar Translation Method is the worst of all. Yet many of its techniques can be employed by teachers especially if they are slightly adapted. As far as modal verbs are concerned, the fill-in-the-blanks has become common practice during lessons. Mechanical drills are the necessary condition for any kind of practice. But they should constitute only the first stage, being afterwards supplemented with meaningful drills and production exercises. Translation is another technique that can be used especially when dealing with advanced students. And if the sentences do not lack a proper context, they may be enjoyable. The Communicative Approach is considered by some people to be the most comprehensive method. It is the latest and it is only natural to have benefited from all the experience so far gained. To overcome the typical problem that students cannot transfer what they learn in classroom to the outside world and to expose students to natural language in a variety of situations, teachers can resort to the use of authentic materials. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to employ this technique; it does not apply to students with lower proficiency but there are
still some authentic materials that can be used even for such a level, for instance weather forecasts. Some recommend that materials should be abridged in some way or another. Others advise teachers to grade the tasks, especially in classes with mixed proficiency students. Language games are enjoyable and if they are properly designed they can give students valuable communicative practice. The only obvious disadvantage is that some game can be very noisy and there is the risk that the teacher, if inexperienced, lose control of the class. Role-plays are very important for the social context and roles they set up; they can be structured (the teacher tells the students who they are and what they should say) or less structured (students are given identities and a situation, and they determine what they will say). In my opinion, it is important for every teacher to strike a balance between the two approaches; in other words to pick and choose those techniques, be they traditional or communicative, that are the best or seem more suitable for his/her purposes and that should correspond to the factors that I have mentioned earlier. What is best (ideal?) is, not to fully embrace only one approach because it has got both advantages and disadvantages, but to try to borrow from them only the advantages they offer, this being in accordance with their complementarity.
CHAPTER SEVEN - EXPECTED DIFFICULTIES WHEN TEACHING THE ENGLISH MODAL VERBS
Any Romanian teacher that has to introduce the English modal verbs to a class knows that there are difficulties in acquiring the concept. And if he/she is honest with himself/herself, he/she will recognize there are also difficulties in teaching the English modal verbs to Romanian students. In this last chapter we propose to answer to the following question: to what do we owe these difficulties and how can we overcome them? First of all, there is a difference in the degree of prominence within the grammatical system between the English modal verbs and their Romanian counterpart. The English modal verbs are undoubtedly more prominent within their grammatical system; they occupy a significant part in English grammar books and are studied in school. But not a word is mentioned to Romanian students about the Romanian modal verbs. They are normally not to be found in Romanian grammar books. I cannot speak for those who have studied philology, but as far as I know, it is only Mioara Avram, in Gramatica pentru toti, that describes the Romanian modal verbs. What she calls verbs of modality and aspect fall into a lexical class with certain general features which vary from one verb to another. Some grammarians regard these verbs as semi-auxiliaries, which is similar to the status of the English modal verbs. The verbs of modality are those verbs that are formed together with another verb (usually an infinitive or subjunctive) that is thus conferred modal meaning such as possibility, necessity, wish, imminence, unreality. The verbs of modality are: a avea – to have, a da – to give, a fi – to be, a putea – can, to be able to, a sta – (literally) to lie, a trebui – must, to have to, a veni – (literally) to come, a vrea – will, wish, want. They can only be considered modal verbs only in such constructions as: Am a scrie – I have to write Am de scris – I have to write, I must write
Da sa spuna – he/she is about to say/wants to say Era sa cad – I nearly fell down, I was about to fall down E de facut – (it) has to be done Pot face – I can do Sta sa cada – (it) is about to fall down Sa fac - that I should/would/might do Trebuie sa plec – I must/have to leave Trebuie laudat – (it) must/should/ ought/has to be praised Imi vine sa rid – I feel like laughing Vreau sa plec – I want to leave Given all these data, the possibility of making any analogy(or L1 transfer) and thus linking old knowledge to new one is excluded in the case of Romanian students. To continue the analysis we will resort to examining a list of common mistakes made by Romanian students learning the English modal verbs. The mistakes have been collected, on the one hand, from the testpapers belonging to four students aged 20-25, studying Management or Engineering and on the other hand from testpapers belonging to ten highschool students aged 17-18. In the first case, the exercise concerning the modal verbs is a translation exercise containing ten sentences in Romanian (see annexe 5). The purpose of the test was to check the acquisition of the basic meanings of CAN, MAY and MUST in relationship to either present or past events. As far as the highschool students are concerned they had to solve three exercises taken from Michael Vince’s Elementary Language Practice: multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, paraphrasing. The mistakes have been noticed to relate to: 1. Syntactic features of modal verbs e.g. *may don’t, *have can’t to, *should have to put, *may is, *must knows, *must to go, etc. 2. Meanings (i.e. interpretation errors) e.g. *Mary may be in her bedroom. The light is on. instead of Mary must be in her bedroom. The light is on.
*Centralist should be put through. instead of The operator might put you through. 3. Reference *Conference must be delayed . instead of The conference had to be postponed. *He must spend a lot of money for it. instead of He must have spent a lot of money for it. 4. Substitution of other modal expression (usually adjective or adverb) for a modal verb. *He probably forgot the passport at the bank. instead of He must have forgotten his passport at the bank. *It can’t be possible for them to see me with Tom. instead of He can’t have seen me with Tom. Note: All the examples are to be found in Annexe 5. The first type of mistakes may be due to the fact that the students haven’t internalized the syntactic rules governing the modal verbs. A suitable solution to this would be the awareness exercises and drills that would enable the students to ‘automatically’ and correctly use / form the modal patters. Misinterpretation of modal meanings can be caused by inappropriate introduction. Providing more contexts and contextualized examples that would illustrate the basic meanings of the modal verbs seems to be the most plausible solution. The results would be improved by adding awareness exercises and meaningful drills. Mistakes in point of reference usually consist in the fact that the students are unable to link the reference of the sentence to either present of perfect infinitive. In fact, most students have been noticed to succumb to perfect infinitive, which baffles them, and, although being
able to perceive the past reference, they cannot associate it to, and consequently use, this form. The situation can be attributed to two distinct causes: • • Either the students do not perceive the two different time references, but that would imply most of them are stupid, which is not the case; Or they have problems with memorizing the perfect infinitive, which is normal since it implies putting together three verbs (the modal included). Difficult grammatical constructions need more time and practice to be acquired. Awareness exercises and drills can help, but also role-plays so that the students could see how reference is anchored in different situations. Substitution of other modal expression for a modal verb generally occurs in translation exercises. The students tend to translate word for word sentences like: Se poate sa ploua. Nu-si mai gaseste ceasul. Probabil ca cineva i l-a furat. On the one hand the situation is partially due to the natural tendency of taking the easier way, but on the other, that only means the students do not know the fact that the English modal verbs are prevalent in use to other modal expressions. It can also be accounted for by L1 influence, for we have already mentioned the fact that Romanian modal verbs are less prominent than the other modal expressions. What a teacher should do about it is explain to students this very fact when translating, or even draw their attention on it before starting doing the exercise. CONCLUSION All these types of mistakes cover the complexity of the English modal verbs. Faced with such additional problems as time and classroom management, a teacher may find it hard to deal with all these difficulties within the span of a class. The best he/she can do is counterpoise them through organization, i.e. curriculum/syllabus planning and lesson planning.
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