Guía básica sobre los “Modal Verbs” en inglés

by Rachel on 22/10/2011

Un modal verb, también llamado modal auxiliary verb o modal auxiliary, se usa para expresar el “modo” de una frase:  posibilidad /probabilidad (likelihood), capacidad/aptitud (ability), permiso (permission) y obligación (obligation). En español, por ejemplo, no necesitamos estos verbos “modales” o auxiliares porque tenemos tiempos verbales o modos específicos para expresar estas misma ideas (el condicional, el subjuntivo, el imperativo).

Hay 10  modal verbs en inglés.  Estos verbos funcionan de manera distinta a los verbos normales y son usados delante de otros verbos, en coletillas interrogativas (tags) y respuestas cortas.

Los modal verbs son verbos auxiliares y son los “rebeldes sin causa”…. se saltan algunas normas:

1. no cogen la -S en la tercera persona del singular del presente simple;

2. normalmente usan NOT para la forma negativa;

3. muchos de ellos no existen en el pasado o en el futuro.

Los 10 modal verbs son:

  • May
  • Might
  • Can
  • Could
  • Will
  • Would
  • Shall
  • Should
  • Ought to*
  • Must

* “Ought to” es un verbo muy formal. Normalmente se prefiere el uso de Shall o Should en su lugar.

 

Veamos las reglas gramaticales aplicadas a los modals y así entender porqué son tan especiales:

Los modal verbs no siguen las normas de los verbos normales. No tienen pasado ni futuro y no toman la -s de la tercera persona del singular en le presente simple.

She can sing                                      She cans sing.  

 

Cuando hablamos del pasado o del futuro, se usa otro verbo con un significado similar al del modal.  Por ejemplo,  “She must leave” se diría “she had to leave” en el pasado y  “she will have to leave” en el futuro.

También es posible usar  have después del modal para cambiar el tiempo vierbal. Así pues, “I should eat some lunch” se diría “I should have eaten some lunch”. Fíjate que  en este caso, el verbo principal se usa en el past participle.

Can y could actúan como “pareja”, y una frase que use can en el presente, usará could en el pasado.

I can’t find my wallet                    >             I couldn’t find my wallet.

Para hacer la forma negativa, siempre hay que añadir NOT al modal.

I shouldn’t eat chocolate                            I don’t should eat chocolate.

También, todos los modales van seguidos del infinitivo del verbo principal sin “to”. (a excepción del modal “ought”, que requiere “to”).

I could dance                                                   I could to dance.

 

Como ya he dicho más arriba, los modales también se pueden usar para formular coletillas interrogativas (el típico “…, ¿no?” al final de una frase) conocidas como question tags en inglés. También se usan para dar respuestas cortas a las coletillas interrogativas. En este caso, usamos el mismo modal.

Echa un vistazo a estos ejemplos:

                Examples:          You can’t pass me the salt, can you? Yes I can.

                                               You wouldn’t let me down, would you? No I wouldn’t.

 

Cada modal tiene una función diferente en una frase. En esta tabla puedes ver la función que cada modal puede desempeñar:

Modal

Example

Function

May

May I go to the conference? Asking for permission.

 

I may be able to help you with your project tomorrow. Future possibility.

Might

We might be interrupting their lunch. Present possibility.

 

They might make us an offer. Future possibility.

Can

They can fix the problem. Ability.

 

They can’t fix the problem. Inability.

 

Can I have a cup of coffee? Request

 

Can I smoke in here? Asking for permission.

Could

Could you help me? Request.

 

Could I take tomorrow off? Asking for permission.

 

We could try unplugging it? Suggestion.

 

I could come to LA next month. Future possibility.

 

I left London, so I could get a job here. Ability in the past.

Will

I’ll give you a call on Monday. Promise.

 

I’ll take these figures with me. Instant decision.

 

We’ll book your tickets if you like. Offer.

 

We will see an increase in salaries next year. Certain prediction.

Would

Would you mind if I opened a window? Asking for permission.

 

Would you make me a coffee? Request.

 

Would you be available at 6pm tonight? Making arrangements.

 

Would you like to go out some time? Invitation.

 

Would you prefer the window seat or the aisle? Preferences.

Shall

Shall I get the phone? Or will you? Asking what to do.

 

Shall I call a cab? Offer.

 

Shall we say 10pm at Roxy’s then? Suggestion.

Should

You should see a doctor, you don’t look well. Advice.

 

We should get a specialist. Recommending action.

 

Salaries should go up next year. Uncertain prediction.

Ought to

You ought to go to the dentist before you leave. Advice.

Must

I must leave now to catch my train. Obligation/ Necessity

 

You mustn’t ask too many questions. Prohibition.

 

Consejo Lingüístico:

Los verbos modales de posibilidad los usamos normalmente para suavizar una frase. Por ejemplo, si tuvieras que decirle a tu jefe que el proyecto no será acabado a tiempo, entonces usarías el modal may’ o ‘might’ ya que son más ambiguos.

Por ejemplo: We may not be able to complete the project on time.

En lugar de: We can’t finish the project on time.

Esto se debe a la tendencia a ser indirectos en inglés. Ser muy directo en inglés se puede tomar como brusco y maleducado.

 

 

Y ahora…. vamos a practicar con algunos ejercicios. Recuerda que puedes encontrar las soluciones al final del artículo.

Activity 1. Put the modal verb in its correct form, combined with the verb in brackets, to make deductions.
The first one has been done for you.

There is a lot of mail in the mailbox.

  1. They can’t have got up yet.
  2. They______ (be) on holiday.
  3. They________ (have) a lot of magazine subscriptions.

He has a stain on his suit

  1. He______ (have) noticed it.
  2. He______ (have) had time to clean it.
  3. It_____ (have) just happened.

 

 

Activity 2. Put the correct modal verb in the space in its positive or negative form.

  1. She had a lot of energy, she_______surf all day, dance all night.
  2. All noise________be kept to a minimum after 11pm.
  3. _______you like me to close the window? You look cold!
  4. I_______ take that bag for you, if you like.
  5. You really_________see the doctor regarding your ill health.
  6. ______I show you to your room?
  7. _____ you pass me the butter please?
  8. We_______ be able to finish the project on time.
  9. _______I take tomorrow off?  It’s my birthday.
  10. You really_______ touch that, you might hurt yourself.

 

Activity 3. Use modal verbs to follow the instructions of these commands.

  1. Ask to take a holiday next month.
  2. Ask for the salt.
  3. Ask if it is possible for you to switch the light on.
  4. State that you possibly have time to help with the move tomorrow.
  5. State that it is possible that taxes will increase next year.
  6. State that it is possible you are able to pick up someone from the airport.
  7. State that there is a slight possibility that sales figures will increase next year.
  8. State that you are certain sales figures will increase next year.
  9. State that you are able to fix the computer.
  10. State that you are unable to fix the DVD player.
  11. State that you left your old job to be able to work here.
  12. Ask for a glass of wine.
  13. Request that someone make you a cup of tea.
  14. Offer to call Mr Bartlett now.
  15. Invite someone out to dinner.
  16. Suggest that you meet at 9pm.
  17. Advise someone to see a dentist.
  18. State it is necessary that you leave now.
  19. State that you are prohibited from speaking, unless spoken to.

 

Respuestas:

Activity 1

  1. They can’t have got up yet.
  2. They must be on holiday.
  3. They might have a lot of magazine subscriptions.
  4. He mustn’t have noticed it.
  5. He might not have had time to clean it.
  6. It may have just happened.

 

Activity 2

  1. She had a lot of energy; she could surf all day, dance all night.
  2. All noise should be kept to a minimum after 11pm.
  3. Would you like me to close the window? You look cold!
  4. I’ll take that bag for you, if you like.
  5. You really ought to see the doctor regarding your ill health.
  6. Shall I show you to your room?
  7. Can you pass me the butter please?
  8. We may not be able to finish the project on time.
  9. Could I take tomorrow off?  It’s my birthday.
  10. You really shouldn’t touch that, you might hurt yourself.

 

Activity 3

  1. Could/May I take a holiday next month?
  2. Can/Could you pass me the salt?
  3. Would you mind if I switched the light on?
  4. I may/might have time to help you with the move tomorrow.
  5. There might/may be an increase in taxes next year.
  6. I could come and pick you up at the airport.
  7. Sales figures should increase next year.
  8. Sales figures will increase next year.
  9. I can fix the computer.
  10. I can’t fix the DVD player.
  11. I left my old job so that I could work here.
  12. Can/Could I have a glass of wine?
  13. Would you make me a cup of tea?
  14. Shall I call Mr Bartlett now? I’ll call Mr Bartlett now if you like?
  15. Would you like to come out to dinner with me?
  16. Shall we say 9pm?
  17. You really should/ ought to see a dentist.
  18. I really must leave/be going now.
  19. You mustn’t speak, unless spoken to.

 

Espero que esta información te haya sido útil.

Recuerda que puedes contactarme para resolver cualquier duda o compartir cualquier inquietud… visita mi página en Facebook y deja tus comentarios…. ayudarte será mi placer!

Keep enjoying the learning!!

 

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