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  1. #1
    M56 Guest

    Default Modal auxiliaries and facts

    If modal auxiliaries are not meant to express facts, why is it that speakers add discourse markers such as "it is a fact that" in the sentence below?

    "Even though we cannot say for sure what his ulterior motive was, it is a fact that he must have had one."

    "We all know as a fact that nothing will satisfy us until we realize the truth for ourselves."

    "...but we all know as a fact that you can and do have all black things with no admittance for whites."

    "I know as a fact that Americans should damn-well care what China thinks of them..."

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Modal auxiliaries and facts

    Doesn't the marker get round the modal problem?

  3. #3
    M56 Guest

    Default Re: Modal auxiliaries and facts

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    Doesn't the marker get round the modal problem?
    Do you mean that it cancels it out?

  4. #4
    M56 Guest

    Default Re: Modal auxiliaries and facts

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    Doesn't the marker get round the modal problem?
    Do you mean that it cancels it out? I'm not sure.

    We could just as well say:


    "Americans should damn-well care what China thinks of them. That is a fact."

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Modal auxiliaries and facts

    Not that it cancels them out, but that it backs them up where they might be perceived as flawed. After all, the last is not a fact- it strikes me as a rhetorical way of creating a fact, or widening the impact of a fact.

  6. #6
    M56 Guest

    Default Re: Modal auxiliaries and facts

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    Not that it cancels them out, but that it backs them up where they might be perceived as flawed. After all, the last is not a fact- it strikes me as a rhetorical way of creating a fact, or widening the impact of a fact.
    <After all, the last is not a fact- it strikes me as a rhetorical way of creating a fact, or widening the impact of a fact.>

    But is it a fact for the speaker?

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    Default Re: Modal auxiliaries and facts

    I would say that there is no such thing as "a fact for the speaker".... if I think it is one o'clock and you think it is two o'clock, we have two opinions... not two facts.

    So, if I wanted to make my opinion LOOK like a fact, I would state my OPINION, then LABEL it a fact, as Tdol refers to.

    "Coke is the best drink in the world, that's a fact."
    Well, it is NOT a fact, no matter how many times I call it that.

    To your original question, why would the use the modal auxiliary AND then label it a fact? Because, as in my Coke example, they are not sure you accept their OPINION as a fact, so they are trying to give it more strength. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

    A very smart politician once said that, "We are all entitled to have our own opinions, but we are not all entitled to have our own facts."

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Modal auxiliaries and facts

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert B. Mercer
    "We are all entitled to have our own opinions, but we are not all entitled to have our own facts."
    Who was it? I do like it, but then politicians are good at being selective with their facts.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Modal auxiliaries and facts

    Quote Originally Posted by M56
    "Even though we cannot say for sure what his ulterior motive was, it is a fact that he must have had one."
    Shouldn't this one be "Even though we cannot say for sure what his ulterior motive was, it is a fact that he had one." ? To me this is correct, and it means the same as the original sentece which I am not so sure is correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by M56
    "We all know as a fact that nothing will satisfy us until we realize the truth for ourselves."
    "Will" is a particular case, if you ask me, because of it's almost certain nature. I mean, it denotes definite future, doesn't it? Does anybody see anything wrong with "It is a fact that the sun will rise tomorrow" ? The sun rising tomorrow hasn't happened yet, so it's not a fact, but from experience I'd bet everything I have that it'll happen, wouldn't you? So as I see it "will" is the least modal of the modals and it does express facts, or something really close to a fact. Another way of looking at this is that the "it's a fact" adds certainty to something that will become a fact for sure. And although there's still controversy, will can be seen as an auxiliary to the future "tense" (if you think there's such a thing) or as a modal, but with 2 different and very interrelated functions (according to GN Leech back in 1971). So maybe in this case "it's a fact" makes it explicit that "will" is not being used as a modal but factual.

    Quote Originally Posted by M56
    "...but we all know as a fact that you can and do have all black things with no admittance for whites."
    This one is a little bit more complicated since the fact is expressed in that "you do have all black...." so the sentence is correct regardless of the presence of the modal.

    Quote Originally Posted by M56
    "I know as a fact that Americans should damn-well care what China thinks of them..."
    This is the more general case where the fact referes not to the verb with the modal auxiliary (in this case to care). I mean, it is obviouos that it's not a fact that Americans care about what China thinks, that is why the modal is there, but that they should care, that.. well aparently is a fact.

    Comments appreciated
    Cheers
    Ed
    Last edited by edinohio; 11-Aug-2005 at 22:42.

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