View Poll Results: You really ____ not to have said that.

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815. This poll is closed
  • should

    443 54.36%
  • ought

    372 45.64%
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Thread: Modals

  1. #1
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Modals

    If you want to check your answer,













    Highlight here: ought

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Modals

    I'think 'should' is correct.Am I right?

  3. #3
    jean-paul Guest

    Default Re: Modals

    Technically, "ought" in NOT a modal, as it is followed by an infinitive introduced by TO.
    Compare: you should do it ≠ you ought to do it.

    Similarly, NEED can be a modal or a full verb. Compare:

    you needn't do it ≠ you don't need to do it

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Modals

    Many would disagree with that; it does take 'to, but forms negatives and questions like modals, and has no infinitive. Importantly, its meaning carries modality, so the technical evidence suggests to many that it is a modal. Modal verbs are not defined as 'verbs that do not take an infinitive without to'.
    Last edited by Tdol; 27-Apr-2005 at 08:06. Reason: typo

  5. #5
    jean-paul Guest

    Default Re: Modals

    Let me quote my favourite specialist of English grammar (Henri Adamczewski):

    OUGHT is to SHOULD what HAVE is to MUST

    (1) You have to come ≠ (2) you must come

    In (2) the modal MUST expresses the way the speaker sees the relation between the subject "YOU" and the action "COME"

    In (1), there's no modality at all. The speaker has no responsibility in the fact that "YOU" is in the obligation of coming.

    OUGHT and SHOULD function in the same way exactly, and so do NEED (verb) and NEED (modal)

    (1) You don't need to come to work tomorrow (it's Sunday).
    (2) You needn't come tomorrow (I can finish the job myself).

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Modals

    Try putting sentence 1) into the negative and your analysis breaks down. Because 'oughtn't is not to 'shouldn't' as 'don't have to' is to 'mustn't'.

    One example of 'must' doesn't conclude much about modality:

    I must get my haircut.
    This could have many different meanings.

    How are you defining modality?

    Many grammarians say 'ought' is a modal', so your initial claim that it technically isn't a modal was inaccurate as it is a statement of opinion rather than a generally accepted fact. 'Ought' regularly appears in lists of modals.

    If you want to argue that it isn't, I'm fine with that, but I haven't seen anything here to change my view yet.
    Last edited by Tdol; 27-Apr-2005 at 19:56.

  7. #7
    jean-paul Guest

    Default Re: Modals

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    Try putting sentence 1) into the negative and your analysis breaks down. Because 'oughtn't is not to 'shouldn't' as 'don't have to' is to 'mustn't'.

    One example of 'must' doesn't conclude much about modality:



    This could have many different meanings.

    How are you defining modality?

    Many grammarians say 'ought' is a modal', so your initial claim that it technically isn't a modal was inaccurate as it is a statement of opinion rather than a generally accepted fact. 'Ought' regularly appears in lists of modals.

    If you want to argue that it isn't, I'm fine with that, but I haven't seen anything here to change my view yet.

    A few remarks:
    1) Comparing a Modal to the same Modal followed by "not" doesn't mean anything:
    "She may come" expresses a possibility; "She may not come" expresses an interdiction.

    2) You wrote before that "ought" is a modal because it doesn't have an infinitive. This is not true. "Ought" is an archaic form of "owed", the infinitive of which is "owe".

    3) I already defined modality: a way for the speaker to express his/her point of view concerning the relation between the subject and the predicate, and also (I should have added that before), the relation between the speaker and the subject (who can sometimes happen to be the same person, "I"). Modals are not the only tool available to "modalise" a sentence: we can also use adverbs (probably, possibly, certainly, etc.), or adjectives ("He is likely to come", "She is sure to win").

    4) The fact that thousands of grammarians consider "ought" as a modal does not impress me much. A modal is followed by an infinitive WITHOUT to:
    She can come; she could come; she will come; she must come; she might come... It's a perfectly logical rule, for the reason stated earlier, the modal being "inserted", so to speak, by the speaker in the relation between the subject and the predicate. Why consider as a modal a verb that breaks the rule?

    5) Do you agree with me that applying that rule to the couple: "You needn't come"/"You don't need to come" makes things much clear: "needn't" is a modal, "need" is a full verb? By the way, can "need" be a modal without the negation attached? Is it possible to hear native speakers say things like: "Need I come?", which would obviously be modalised?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Modals

    1- It may not mean much, but it does mean enough to show the innacuracy of the analogy about the relationship between should/ought and must/have to.
    2- Language changes over time. Do you really say that 'to owe' is the current infinitive form of ought?
    3- I'm not sure what bearing this has on the issue. There are many ways to express modality, but this doesn't mean that ought isn't a modal.
    4- You can choose to ignore as many grammarians as you wish, but that is merely an attitude, not a way of advancing an argument.
    Language is full of exceptions. Modals change- used to was modal at one time to many people; in living memory, must was used as a past/remote form as well as the present. You are taking one characteristic and trying to use this as a definition; the infinitive marker doesn't have to be the be-all and end-all of the issue of categorisng modal verbs. Many verbs don't take 'to', but they're not modals. Not taking 'to' is one characteristc of most modals, but that doesn't mean it proves anything conclusively.
    5- Of course I agree here. It works as a way to test whether need is functioning as a modal and, yes, you do hear 'need I come?'.

    However, that still does not confirm your original claim that 'ought' is technically not a modal. Your claim is an opinion, based on ignoring thousands of grammarians, but inaccurately presented an opinion, and a disputed one, as an accepted fact.

    I've seen arguments that modals aren't verbs. That's fine as an opinion, but it would be wrong to say 'technically modals aren't verbs' because it is an inaccurate picture of the issue.


    There a number of possible tests for modal verbs:


    • Does it express modality?
    • Can it be placed after another modal verb? No.
    • Does it have an infinitive? No
    • Does it have a past participle? No
    • Does it inflect the third person singular? No
    • Does it form the negative by adding -n't or not after the verb? Yes
    • Does it take an infinitive without 'to'? No
    Can you explain why failing one means it's not a modal? Is this the over-riding test? Not in the opinion of thousands of grammarians. You might want to dredge up archaic forms to change the answer for the third and fourth, but I do not accept that they have any bearing on the current state of the verb. 'Nice', as we all know, once meant 'stupid'. We're asking whether it is a modal verb in 2005, not in the past. Individually, none of the above may be conclusive, but there is a clear pattern that suggests that there are good grounds for considering it a modal verb.
    Last edited by Tdol; 27-Apr-2005 at 22:33.

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Modals

    Quote Originally Posted by selinat
    I'think 'should' is correct.Am I right?
    I'm afraid not- don't use 'should' with 'to'. The answer is 'ought'.

  10. #10
    jean-paul Guest

    Default Re: Modals

    1) Are modals verbs? Or just tools to express nuances?
    Two quotations:
    "I came, I saw, I conquered" (Julius Ceasar)
    Is the meaning of this sentence clear? Perfectly.

    "Some say they can, some say they can't
    some say they will, some say they won't" (Lyrics from "Boredom", a Procol Harum song from the sixties)
    What is this guy singing about? Is the meaning clear without a verb after the modals?

    2) Why is it so important to consider "ought" as a modal? It would be much simpler if it were not.
    In any given sentence, if you replace a modal with another, you change the meaning.
    "You may be right" is not the same as "You could be right" or "You might be right".

    Is there a difference in meaning between "You should come" and "You ought to come"?
    A difference comparable to the one between "You needn't come" and "You don't need to come"?
    In my opinion, there is one: in each pair, the first sentence is "modalised", the second is not -- the speaker does not express his/her personal point of view.

    If there is no difference in meaning, why 2 modals to express the same idea?

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