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Section 11.3.5

Modal Auxiliaries

Modal auxiliaries are special auxiliary verbs that express the degree of certainty of the action in the sentence, or the attitude or opinion of the writer concerning the action. Some common modal auxiliaries are must, can, will, and should. The following chart lists the forms and meanings of the modal auxiliaries in English.

Present Past/Conditional Meanings
may might possible, not certain, with permission (negative=not certain)
can could possible, physically able, optional (negative=not possible)
will would definite future, desired, promised
shall should probable future, intended future (conditional=morally advisable)
must -- obligatory, urgent, necessary, logical deduction

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