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7.1.1 "To have" can be used as a full verb, expressing the idea of possession, and in a large
number of common expressions.
He has an interesting collection of foreign stamps. We always have a good time
learning English grammar. They had a run out in their new car yesterday.
I think I'll
have a nice cup of tea now!
to have lunch - a swim - a drink - a bath - a dream - a look
7.1.2 When "to have" is used as a full verb, you very often construct the negative and
interrogative forms with the auxiliary "to do," as you do for any other normal verb, and in fact
you must do so if its complement is a pronoun.
We didn't have much fun in Chemistry today.
Do you have time to go for a drink now?
I was looking for that key! Did you have it all the time?
7.1.3 It is the auxiliary that we use to form the "Perfect" tenses.
They have gone to school already.
They had had no idea what to do with it.
I would have come if I'd been able to.
7.1.4 It can express the idea of compulsion or necessity, and is thus an alternative to the
modal auxiliary "must," as we shall see later in this chapter. (In fact "to have to" tends to
express an external obligation, rather than one imposed by the speaker.)
I don't like learning Physics, but I have to!
He had to walk because he'd missed the bus.
7.1.5 In colloquial English the form "I've got..." is very often used, instead of just "I have..."
She's got a brand new Mercedes.
Have you got any money to lend me?
They'd got no idea what they were talking about.
It's getting late, we've got to go now.
7.2.1 "To be" can be used as a full verb, where its complement will often be an adjective or
an adjectival expression.
How are you? - I'm fine, I hope you are well too.
(Note that "to be" can in fact be used in the progressive form in this sort of case, when it
expresses the idea of someone acting or behaving in a certain manner.)
Jennifer is being silly again!
He was being very brave as he waited to see the dentist.
7.2.2 It is the auxiliary used to form the "Progressive" verb tenses.
They are sitting out in the garden.
We will be coming home tomorrow.
7.2.3 It is the auxiliary used to form the Passive.
Things like that are never spoken about here.
They were taken out at dawn and executed.
7.2.4 As you will see in the following examples, it is used to express a sort of duty or
arrangement, an order given by a third person, or the idea of what is or was destined to
Penelope and I are to be married in June.
What am I to do? - You are to leave at once!
Father says that you are to come in now.
He was to become very famous later on in his life.
7.2.5 Take note of the fact that the only time you conjugate the verb "to be" with the
auxiliary "to do" is in the negative imperative.
"Don't be cruel to a heart that's true."
7.2.6 Take note also of the perhaps illogical form "aren't I?" which is in fact the way spoken
English abbreviates "am I not?"
You're not coming with us! - Aren't I?
Aren't I good enough to play in your team?
7.3.1 "To do" can be a full verb, and has numerous idiomatic uses which we have tried to
give an idea of in chapter eight.
We really must do something.
They all tried to do their very best.
What are you doing tonight after school?
7.3.2 It is used to form the negative and interrogative forms of the simple present and simple
past of all full verbs except "to be," and to form the negative imperative of all verbs that have
I don't find all this particularly difficult.
Do you do this kind of thing often?
They didn't have very much to say to us.
Walk, don't run!
Don't tell me what I've got to do!
Note that if the idea of negation concerns another element of the sentence rather than the verb,
the auxiliary "to do" need not be used.
The accident happened not at Exeter, but at Plymouth.
7.3.3 It is often used to avoid unnecessary repetition of another verb.
My father drives a Porsche! - My big brother does too!
Do you believe in Father Christmas? - Yes, I do.
7.3.4 It is used to insist on the sense of another verb, in what we call the "emphatic" form.
I do work very hard, you know.
She does know what you're talking about, I'm sure of it.
Do be quick please, children!
7.4.1 Do not forget the following basic rules about the construction of the modal auxiliaries.
(a) They have no infinitive and no participles; basically, only the "present" and "past"
forms exist, although the latter often have a conditional sense.
I can help you, and Henry could too if he wanted to.
(b) They take no "s" in the third person singular of the present tense.
The train may be late; tell David he must wait for it here.
(c) There is no use of "to do" in their negative and interrogative forms.
Can we watch television now? - No, you can't.
(d) They are usually followed by an incomplete infinitive, and can never be followed
by a noun or pronoun.
Penelope can swim right across the lake, but I don't think I can.
7.4.2 As mentioned before, only certain forms of these verbs exist. For the other tenses, we
must use replacement forms, and the following table will help you to find the right one to use
in each case.
expressing ability
- to be able to
expressing permission
- to be allowed to
expressing eventuality
- perhaps..., (it's possible for...)
expressing eventuality
expressing permission
- perhaps..., (it's possible for...)
- to be allowed to
expressing obligation - to have to,(to be obliged to)
expressing certainty - I'm sure (certain,etc.) that..
(Don't forget that these replacement forms can be used in all tenses, and must be used when
no adequate modal form exists.)
7.5.1 Basically, the idea of "being able to do something" is expressed by the modal auxiliary
"CAN," which expresses both physical and mental ability.
7.5.2 (Examples in the present.)
A cat can climb a tree, but a dog can't.
Penelope can't do mental arithmetic very well.
7.5.3 (Examples in the past.)
He could run much faster before he started smoking.
I couldn't beat him at all last year.
They couldn't find their way home.
Note that it is not normal to use the form "could" to translate a French perfect or simple past
form: we must use "was/were able to" to express the idea of ability or opportunity + action in
the past.
They were able to give us all the information we needed.
He was finally able to convince us he'd been right.
7.5.4 (Examples in conditional forms.)
Could you help me answer these questions?
She could easily pass if she worked a bit.
They could have made us a better offer.
Couldn't someone else have given you a hand?
7.5.5 Note also the following examples, where it is in fact more a question of willingness
than of actually being "able" to do something.
Can/could you lend me a fiver till the end of the month?
Can/could you tell me the way to the station, please?
7.5.6 When no adequate modal form exists, use "TO BE ABLE TO."
We will be able to visit you tomorrow.
Have you been able to contact them yet?
He had been able to finish it off on his own.
They will surely have been able to get home by now.
7.6.1 "MAY" is considered the most polite way to express a request for permission, but
"CAN" frequently expresses permission too.
7.6.2 (Examples in the present.)
May I have some more cake, please? - Yes, of course you may.
Can I go to the pictures tonight? - No, you can't!
7.6.3 (Examples in the past.)
We could stay up as long as we liked when David was babysitting.
I couldn't ever watch television at my Aunt Mathilda's.
They said we might use their chalet at Christmas.
I was told I might leave that afternoon.
(Notice that "might," expressing permission, will only be found in a subordinate clause of an
"indirect speech" type.)
7.6.4 (Examples in conditional forms.)
They could come if they asked for permission first.
The American diplomats could leave Moscow if the President's attitude changed.
You could have taken it home with you.
He told me I might see his daughter tomorrow.
(Notice that "might" is again found in a subordinate clause here, and that "might have" is
practically never used to express permission.)
7.6.5 When no adequate modal form exists, use "TO BE ALLOWED TO."
She will be allowed to go home tomorrow.
I think they've been allowed to leave the country.
He had been allowed to tell his own version of the story.
Surely they won't have been allowed to publish that!
7.7.1 "MAY" is the basic solution here: "CAN" sometimes expresses the eventuality of
something happening, but will probably have an event rather than a person as its subject in
such a case.
7.7.2 (Examples in the present.)
She may be waiting for us inside.
Henry may have a better explanation.
Fires can break out very easily in that forest.
A simple answer can take a long time to find.
(Note the way a future idea can be expressed here.)
Her letter may come tomorrow, I suppose.
We may forget if you don't remind us.
7.7.3 (Examples in the past.)
They may have gone out the back door.
She may already have told her mother.
They may have met in Rome last year.
He may have been expecting to see both of us.
7.7.4 (Examples in the pluperfect.)
We thought he might have broken his leg.
They told us their grandfather might have been there.
Note that this "past perfect" use only comes in a subordinate clause. You can also see from the
examples that "could" is not really to be used to express eventuality in past or past perfect
7.7.5 (Examples in conditional forms.)
It might be upstairs in the bedroom.
That might make her think, but I doubt it!
Could it be David's fault?
That wall could easily collapse.
You might have left it at your brother's.
It could have been destroyed accidentally.
(Note that spoken English often simply uses "might" instead of "may" in a present context,
indicating generally that the eventuality is even less probable.)
7.7.6 "Perhaps..." or "It is/was/etc. possible (for something to happen)" are the alternative
forms expressing eventuality, and they must of course be used when no adequate modal form
Perhaps she'll have thought of a better excuse this time.
It will have been possible for them all to pass this time.
It had been possible for them to come thanks to Mary.
Perhaps they thought we weren't interested.
They would perhaps like to see the rest of the school too.
7.8.1 "MUST" is the only modal which expresses this idea.
7.8.2 (Examples in the present.)
You must pay very special attention to this chapter.
They must all be back in the barracks before twelve.
7.8.3 (Examples in the past.)
They said you must do it yourself.
He was told he must wait for us here.
(You can see that "must" can only take a past sense in this sort of subordinate clause.)
7.8.4 When no adequate modal form exists, use "TO HAVE TO" or "TO BE OBLIGED
He had to do it, there was just no alternative.
They will be obliged to put their request in writing.
She had had to confess it all.
They'd have been obliged to act quickly if the rain had come.
7.8.5 You can also use "to have to"instead of "must" if you want to insist on the idea that the
obligation in question is an external one, which has been imposed on you, rather than an
obligation which you yourself really feel inside.
I have to go now, or Penelope'll kill me when I get home.
We don't like learning English grammar, but we have to.
7.8.6 Be careful with negative forms when expressing ideas of obligation.
(a) "You must not..." indicates that something is forbidden.
You must not take this warning lightly, my boy!
I must not forget to buy my English teacher a birthday present.
(b) "You don't have to..." means "you are not obliged to...;" (you quite often express
this idea by "you needn't..." or "you don't need to...")
You don't have to believe me, but I think it's a good idea to.
They didn't have to come if they didn't want to.
(c) "You haven't to.." can mean the same as both (a) and (b), so you must be very
careful to avoid ambiguity in what you are saying.
(a) We hadn't to eat chewing gum during lessons either.
(b) That book hasn't to be back in the library until next week.
7.8.7 Conditional forms can also pose one or two problems.
"Should" and "ought to," which are synonymous, express a duty or a moral obligation, like a
piece of advice or a reproach.
You should always be nice to your little sister, Johnny.
We ought to be more careful about this kind of thing.
They should have thought about that beforehand!
You ought to have consulted me first.
"Would have to" means "would be obliged to," and is often found in a sentence in which we
actually express the reasons why you "would have to" do something.
They'd have to hurry if they wanted to catch that bus.
You'd have to train much harder to get in the first team.
She'd have had to apply in person to have a chance of getting a visa quickly.
7.9.1 "MUST" is the modal which expresses this idea.
7.9.2 (Examples in the present.)
That old man must be at least seventy.
You must really think I'm crazy!
They must be coming soon.
7.9.3 (Examples in the past.)
He must have been there, because his car was parked outside.
She must have lost her key again.
We were informed that they must have been lost in the post.
I thought it must be yours.
I imagined it must be the only solution.
(Note how "must" on its own is only used in a subordinate here.)
7.9.4 The idea of negative certainty is often expressed by the form "can't have."
You can't have eaten it all on your own, can you?
He can't have managed it without outside help.
(I don't think they can have finished yet.)
The following table should help you to check on the forms of the modals that can be used in
the different tenses.
could have
can have
conditional perfect
present perfect
might have*
might have*
may have
may have
conditional perfect
present perfect
must have
various past tenses
Don't use it to translate a French “perfect” or simple past
Practically always used negatively, to suggest that something
doesn't seem possible
(See also 7.7.4)
7.7.3 shows you examples of present perfect and simple past
Only in a subordinate clause introduced by a verb in a past
Only used to indicate certainty.
*In a principal clause, "might" and "might have" are practically always conditional forms, and practically never
express permission.
7.11.1 Their first use is in forming the future and conditional tenses, as you have already seen
in chapter two. (See points 2.10.1, 2.10.2 and 2.14.1 if you need to check on this.)
7.11.2 "Shall" is also used to make a suggestion, or when you ask for advice about something
: (see 2.10.3.)
7.11.3 Putting "shall" in the place of "will" and vice versa can show determination on the part
of the speaker that something is going to happen: (see 2.10.4.)
7.11.4 "Should" can express an idea of moral obligation or duty, as we saw in 7.8.6. Notice
that "should" tends to express advice in these cases, and "should have" expresses a reproach or
a feeling of regret.
You should think twice before giving her your answer.
They should buy a guide book if they're visiting Rome.
She shouldn't have shouted at us like that!
A nice boy like David should never have married Penelope!
7.11.5 "Should" can be a sort of "subjunctive substitute." (See also 16.2.)
It's surprising that Eric should have been in that bike-race!
7.11.6 "Will" and "would" can be used to insist on the idea of willingness to do a future
Will you help me, please? - Yes, of course I will!
Would Henry lend you one? - I think he probably would.
7.11.7 "Will" and "would" can also be used to express strong determination or absolute
refusal to do something.
She will keep doing that!
He wouldn't admit it, but we all knew it was him.
7.11.8 "Will" is sometimes used to give a notion of probability.
There goes the bell; it'll be the postman, at this time of day.
No doubt he'll have forgotten to do his homework again!
(See also 2.11.2 and 2.13.2.)
7.11.9 "Would" can be used as an alternative to "used to," insisting on the habitual nature of
an action in the past.
He would spend hours sitting and staring out the window.
The children would often go and visit Grandma on their own.
7.12.1 "To need" can be conjugated like any normal verb, with the normal interrogative and
negative forms using the auxiliary "to do."
He badly needs a new pair of shoes.
Do you need to sing so loud, Mary?
They didn't need to tell us, we'd already guessed.
7.12.2 In fact, "to need" often behaves like a modal auxiliary: this frequently happens in the
negative and interrogative forms of the simple present, when its complement is another verb.
You needn't listen to me if you don't want to.
Need he always work so late?
7.13.1 "To dare," which means "to have the courage" (to do something,) can be conjugated
like any normal verb.
If he dares to come here, will we dare to throw him out?
I don't dare to imagine what your mother would have thought.
7.13.2 In fact, it is perhaps more commonly conjugated like a modal auxiliary, especially in
the simple present, and also generally in interrogative, negative or conditional contexts.
I don't think she dare come out.
Dare you try to swim across the lake?
I dared not tell her I disagreed with her.
I wonder if they dare say that to my face.
7.13.3 When "to dare" is a transitive verb, meaning "to challenge" (someone to do
something,) it behaves like any normal verb.
He often dares people to do stupid things, just for a laugh.
Did she dare you to ask her sister out, or was it your own idea?