Modals of deduction and speculation

In this blog entry we begin our discussion on grammar from the Fortune Gold series focusing firstly on modals of deduction and speculation.

We use modal verbs to deduce and speculate about something. The modals for this are: could, may, might and must.

The basic form is modal + base form verb. For example – He might leave.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT MODAL

The choice of modal (e.g. must vs. could) shows how confident we are that our guess is correct.
Must                     =            High certainty
May                      =            Some certainty
Might / Could   =            Low certainty

For example:
• “How old do you think Mrs. Jenkins is?” “Well, her son is at university so she must be at least 40.”
The speaker is guessing but confident about the guess.
• “What’s the weather like in Abu Dhabi?” “Well, it’s summer now, so it could be over 40°C/104°F this week.”
The speaker is less sure about her guess.

TENSE AND TIME

We use a modal + base form to deduce or speculate about a possible (present) state or current habit. For example: They speak Spanish so they could be from Chile.
• Here, we notice something (They speak Spanish) and we try to explain it (they could be
from Chile).
• Similarly: Jerry is very tall so he might be good at basketball.
We use a modal + have + past participle (-ed or –en form) to deduce or speculate about a possible past event or state. For example: I can’t see Julie anywhere. She might have finished her homework early and left.
• Here, we notice something in the present (Julie isn’t here now) and we try to explain it with a past event/state (Julie finishing her homework early).
• Similarly: My stomach hurts. I may have eaten too much.

If you are interested in learning more about modals of deduction and speculation, don’t forget to follow our grammar video lessons:

Learn Grammar: Will and Going to

The grammar focus for Episode Six Blue is Will and Going to.

Both will and be going to are used for making predictions and used with high frequency. The distinction between them is subtle, and often both forms can be used quite naturally with little or no apparent difference in meaning.

We therefore take the views that 1) there is little point labouring over the distinction, but also 2) that both forms are indispensable due to their high frequency (although note that be going to is mainly restricted to conversation and more informal written genres such as email).

Both will and going to are used to talk about the future. Look at the construction of using ‘will’ and ‘going to’ in the following examples:

WILL:

Subject + will + verb             e.g.  EJ will help Jimmy.

Subject + won’t + verb        e.g.  Jimmy won’t believe Daniel / Jimmy will not believe Daniel.

Will + subject + verb?           e.g. Will Jimmy find Jenny?

GOING TO:

Subject + be + going to + verb                   e.g. I am going to watch Fortune.

Subject + be + not + going to + verb       e.g. Daniel is not going to see EJ.

Be + subject + going to + verb                   e.g. Are you going to have lunch?

Will is a general way of talking about the future, while be going to has a more specific and restricted use. However, it is important to note that, in practice, in many situations both forms are acceptable, and with little apparent difference in meaning.

Several general rules can be applied when deciding on whether to use ‘will’ or ‘going to’:

  1. Use ‘going to’ for a decision or intention made prior to speaking or writing about it – e.g. We are going to the movies tonight.
  2. Use ‘going to’ when talking about a future action with clear evidence – e.g. Look at those black clouds. It is going to rain soon.
  3. Use ‘will’ when there is no evidence to support a prediction but is based on a feeling – e.g. He will have a stomachache if he eats that whole cake.

You can learn more about the future forms of ‘will’ and ‘going to’ by watching the following grammar lesson video on our Chasing Time English TV YouTube channel:

Learn Grammar: Present perfect

The grammar focus for Episode 5 Blue is the present perfect tense.

Present perfect is used for something that happened in the past, and which explains the present situation.

The present perfect of any verb is composed of two elements : the appropriate form of the auxiliary verb to have (present tense), plus the past participle of the main verb. The past participle of a regular verb is base+ed, e.g. played, arrived, looked.

Research indicates that there are 18 verbs which are most commonly used in the present perfect: be, have, open, get, go, do , make, see, come, think, say, give, take, become, ask, show, call, put.

There are a number of situations in which the present perfect tense can be used correctly:

  1. An action started in the past that continues in the present. I have worked at this school for five years.
  2. An action taken during a period of time that is not yet completed. I have travelled to Paris twice this year for business.
  3. An action completed in the very recent past identified with the use of ‘just’. I have just eaten lunch.
  4. An action not defined by the importance of time. She has seen that movie.

A common error made by learners is to overuse the present perfect tense when the past simple tense is a more appropriate choice. It is important for teachers to remind their students about using the past tense when describing a completed, finished action and to use the present perfect tense when providing a link between a past action or situation and a present one.

For example: She has returned the library books last week. (INCORRECT) She returned the library last week. (CORRECT)

Remember to watch the grammar support video on our Chasing Time English TV channel for additional instruction:

What are your experiences with the present perfect tense as a teacher or learner? We would love to hear from you.

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Learn Grammar: Should / have to / (had) better

The grammar focus in Episode Four Blue of the Fortune drama series is modals and phrasal modals, with emphasis on ‘should’, ‘have to’ and ‘had better’.

The specific examples chosen for this lesson are associated with giving advice, talking about necessity/obligation, and opinions about the right course of action.

Using modals correctly is generally dependent on understanding the level of importance or need for action relating to a particular situation.

If we look at this in terms of giving advice or suggestion, the modal ‘should’ is an excellent way of showing what you think is the right course of action. For example, your friend has an important exam tomorrow and asks you what to do. In response, you say “You should study for three hours and then go to bed and sleep.” This is good advice based on your opinion.

In terms of obligation/necessity, the phrasal modal ‘have to’ is a great choice to express a stronger voice. For example, your friend calls you and says that they have been sick all night and have a high fever. This is a potentially dangerous situation. In response, you say “You have to go the hospital immediately!” This demonstrates to your friend the importance of taking action NOW.

The following structure(s) should be used with modals and phrasal modals:

Full modal verbs are followed by the base form of a verb (bare infinitive; no to), so there is no third person –s (He goes but He must go). Note that phrasal modals do conjugate for person (You have to go; He has to go) and tense (She had to go), with the second verb remaining in its base form.

For more information on ‘should’, ‘have to’ and ‘had better’ remember to follow our weekly grammar series on the Chasing Time English TV channel:

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Learn grammar: Imperatives

The language focus in Episode 3 Blue of the Fortune drama series is Imperatives.

Imperatives are generally a straightforward area of grammar – we use this form to tell someone what to do. However, while the common uses of imperatives such as “hurry up” or “shut the door” are mostly recognisable, it is always important to look at the language structure in use.

For this particular grammar focus we concentrate on five uses of Imperatives: Continue reading “Learn grammar: Imperatives”

Learn grammar: Past simple tense

The past simple tense is the grammar focus in Episode 2 Blue of the Fortune drama series.

We use the past simple tense to talk about finished or completed actions. It is generally one of the first areas of grammar instruction that you will encounter as a language learner or teacher due to the high number of instances that we use this tense.

There are several key rules to remember: Continue reading “Learn grammar: Past simple tense”

Grammar support videos – WH Questions

An important part of the Chasing Time English teaching and learning philosophy is to provide purposeful language learning materials in partnership with our narrative drama series.

To support this goal, we recently began production on a series of grammar focus videos. Each week on our YouTube channel, we will be providing a concise review of a specific grammar point. Many of these early videos will draw examples from the first season of the Fortune drama series.

This week we look at WH Questions, a common but sometimes misunderstood or misused question form. When we talk about WH Questions we refer to the forms – Who, When, Which, Why, Where. Each of these forms can be used in the past, present or future tense to ask for information. Continue reading “Grammar support videos – WH Questions”