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Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody! Welcome back to Top Words.
My name is Alisha, and today, we're going to talk about 10 modal verb patterns.
Okay, let's go!
1. Can / Could you…?
Can / Could you…?
Okay. So this first one is "Can you…?" or "Could you (blah, blah, blah)?"
So, a lot of people ask, what's the difference between "Can you…?" and "Could you...?" Which one should I use?
If you're making a request, basically, you can use either one.
If you want to sound a little bit more polite, I would recommend you use "Could you…?" So, if you're talking to your friend or your family member, you can say like, "Can you help me with this?" or "Can you help me make dinner?" or "Can you buy some milk at the store?" or "Can you please fix your hair? It looks weird."
If you want to be a little bit more polite, like when you're talking to someone at work or talking to someone you don't know so well, you can use "Could you (blah, blah, blah)?" So, "Could you please send me that file?" or "Could you please tell me where the restroom is?"
You can use those for more polite situations. Both of them are totally correct. Both of them are fine to use in most everyday situations, so it's up to you to decide how polite you want to sound.
Okay. Example sentence!
"Can you help me move this sofa?"
2. I may / might…
I may / might…
Okay, "may" and "might," this presents another very, very common question.
When you want to talk about your own plans, as in this example sentence with "I may (blah, blah, blah)" or "I might (blah, blah, blah)," we have the same feeling, yes. They both express something we're not sure about, an upcoming plan that we're not sure about. But in American English today, "might" tends to be more commonly used in everyday conversation. "May" tends to sound a little bit more polite, a little bit more formal. When we're talking with our friends, we say, "I might go to the beach this weekend" or "I might go to a party." To make it negative, we say, "I might not do that" or "I might not go to dinner after all. I feel kind of sick."
So, "might" tends to be used more in everyday conversation. Again, just as with "can" and "could," "may" and "might" are both completely correct. They're both fine to use. It's just up to you to choose how polite you want to sound.
Okay, example!
"I might take a day off next week."
3. What should I…?
What should I…?
Okay. This one focuses on the word "should."
We use "should" to ask for advice and to give advice, generally.
So, we tend to use this word in kind of close situations. You're asking somebody for help, maybe, you're asking for someone's opinion, so you could say, "What should I do?" if you are having trouble in an everyday life situation. Or, you can use this to make a more complex sentence like, "What should I get for dinner tonight?" like to ask for someone's opinion. Or maybe, you can change as well, the "I" to something else, to another person. "What should he do?" or "What should she do?" or "What should they do?" You can change that "I" in the sentence to ask about someone's opinion regarding a third person, regarding another party.
So, this is a very basic sentence, yes, "What should I…?" this pattern, but you can change it with these very, very simple small things to ask about others outside yourself.
Another example:
"What should I make for dinner?"
4. I think you should…
I think you should…
Okay. So here, again, we're seeing "should" used. In this case, we're seeing, "I think you should…" So that means we are seeing an advice pattern being presented here. This is something you can use to kind of softly and maybe a little politely express your opinion about something. In this case, "I think you should…" is followed by a verb. "I think you should (verb)." "I think you should go." "I think you should quit." "I think you should stop eating so much junk food." You're giving some kind of advice to the listener.
You can make this less polite by dropping "I think." So, you make the sentence, "You should (blah)." "You should do this." "You should do that." That will make the sentence less polite. Including "I think" at the beginning of it, makes it sound a little bit softer, so it sounds a bit nicer, a little bit kinder.
"I think you should start exercising."
5. Shall we…?
Shall we…?
Okay, "Shall we…?" This is another very common question. Lots of people like to ask about the difference between "Shall we…?" and "Will we…?" They are very different. You cannot use them interchangeably.
"Shall we" is a polite way to suggest you do something. Maybe you've seen this in a romantic movie, like, "Shall we dance?" or "Shall we go for a drink?" something like that. It sounds kind of polite, a little bit nice to say, "Shall we…?" instead of "Do you want to…?" They have the same meaning, though, but "shall we" sounds a little bit more formal.
So, "Shall we…?" and "Will we…?" are sometimes confused by learners.
"Will we" is quite different. "Will we" is asking a question about a future plan, like, "Will we have to pay for this later?" or "Will be in time for the movie?" "Shall we" is like suggesting you do something with another person. "Will we" is saying something like, "Oh my gosh! I'm not sure about this future plan that we have together. Is it true? Is it going to happen?" That's the difference between the two.
Oh! Another point about this. "Shall we," we tend to use "shall we" or "shall I." We don't really use "shall he" or "shall she" so often. We tend to use it for our own activities. That's why you'll see "shall we" or "shall I" used more.
This is also true for an expression like "shall you." You don't see that. "Shall" is used together with some other person.
"Shall we visit your parents for Christmas?"
6. If I _____, I would…
If I _____, I would…
This is a very common pattern, "If I (something), I would…" A lot of people like to use this in the expression like, "If I were you, I would…" So they like to ask, should I use "were"? Should I use "was" in a pattern like "If were you…" or "If I was you…"? The correct answer is, "If I were you, I would…"
We use "was" in a pattern like, "If I was (something, something, something)" to talk about a possible past situation. When you want to talk about something that is not true now, so an unreal situation now, like being you which is not true, not possible, use "were," "If I were you…" It's not possible, so please use "were" in that case.
You can, of course, use this in other situations, "If I (something), I would…" For example, "If I lost my job, I would find a new one" or "If I won the lottery, I would buy a house." So, you can use "verbs" in this pattern as well. Just keep in mind the verb form that you use. "If I won the lottery" or "If I ate a big dinner." We're using simple past tense in this verb form, so please make sure not to use, like simple present tense or don't use an -ING verb form here. "If I (simple past tense), I would (blah, blah, blah)."
For example:
"If I had a bigger house, I would have dinner parties."
So, final point here, remember, when you use this pattern to express something that is not true, not real, like in my example sentence, "If I won the lottery, I would buy a house," make sure you're using the correct verb form after "would" too. "If I won the lottery (past tense verb), I would buy a house." The verb in the main clause is in the infinitive form, so make sure that your verbs match. This is a good one to study grammar way.
Okay, onward.
7. You must (not)...
You must (not)...
Okay. Here, we see a rule. "Must" is commonly used to express rules. We don't use "must" so much in everyday conversation because it tends to sound quite strong. You will, however, see "must" used in official rules, like if you're travelling, you're going to like the airport, maybe you are seeing some rules on a sign somewhere, or you're seeing, I don't know, maybe you're reading a contract, something official. That's where you tend to see "must" used.
We use "must" in everyday conversation for super, super strong things, like you must do this or you must not do that. Maybe your doctor gives you some advice, for example.
So in general, you don't say this in everyday conversation so much, but you should know when it means that you should take something seriously, like in an official rule, like, "You must not smoke in this area!" or "You must stop eating junkfood or you're going to get very, very unhealthy!" or "You must not forget your mother's birthday!" That's actually very true. That's a very strong situation. You must not forget your mother's birthday."
"You must not disappoint your mother."
"You must not disappoint your mother!" Exactly, exactly!
So, these are all very, very important and strong things that we need to communicate. We do that with "must."
You can also, of course, change your subject to "he" or "she" or "they" as well, so that you're not just talking to you, the listener or the reader, but you can use it to express something another person must or must not do.
"Passengers must show their passports to immigration officers."
8. This must (not) be…
This must (not) be…
Okay. This use of "must" sometimes is a bit challenging. The key with this use of "must" is the use of must with "be." So when we use "must" and "be" together, we're talking about a possible condition or a possible state. In this example, we see it in the negative, "This must (not) be (something, something, something)."
So, we use this in a situation like for example, you're looking for a place. You're using the GPS on your phone and you come to this place and you think, hmm, seems correct, but the restaurant I'm looking for is not here. We might say, "This must not be the right place." That means this is probably not the right place or this expression describes a very high chance that something is not true, in the negative. When we use it in the positive, for example, "Ah! This must be the right place. I found the restaurant!" It means there's a high possibility I am correct.
So this use of "must" is when we use it with "be."
To make the negative, "must not be."
To make the positive, "this must be."
So you can use it to talk about places. You can also use it to talk about conditions. So, for example, like when you look at answers on a test, you might think to yourself, "Hmm, this must be the correct answer" or "This must be correct." You can use both a noun and an adjective after this to express that high or low condition of something being true.
"This must not be the right place. It's closed."
9. That can't be…
That can't be…
Okay. "That can't be…," this is the reduced form of "That cannot be…" This means it's impossible. So some condition or some state is impossible. This is different from "must not be" because "must not be" expresses that there's a very, very low chance that something is true. "That can't be…" expresses that something is completely impossible. There is zero percent chance that something is true. So, for example, if I think I see my co-worker at the coffee shop, but I know my co-worker is at the office, I might think to myself, "Ah, that can't be Risa. She's at the office today." Maybe, she looks just like my co-worker, but I know it's not possible. I expressed that with "can't be." This is quite different from that "must not be" because "must not be" expresses there's still a little bit of a chance that that is true. "Can't be" expresses that it is completely impossible.
Interestingly, we don't really use this in the positive form much. We don't say, "This can be correct." We tend to say, "This could be correct." We don't really use this "This can be…" pattern. So, if you want to express something is impossible, completely impossible, use "This can't be…" Also, "couldn't be" is acceptable here. But when you want to express that something is just possible, use "could be," not "can't be." Interesting point!
Okay, example:
"That can't be the right file. The data is totally different."
10. We shouldn't…
We shouldn't…
"We shouldn't…" Okay. So here, we're using "should" again, this time, in the negative. "Shouldn't" is the reduced form. "Should not" becomes "shouldn't." In this case, we're using it with the subject "we," meaning something you and I together should not do.
So, again, this is an advice pattern. We should not do something. Of course, you can make this positive by simply removing "not" after "should." "We should (blah, blah, blah)." So, "We shouldn't steal." "We shouldn't disrespect our mothers." "We shouldn't forget our mother's birthdays, right?" This is the important point from today's lesson, I think, that, hmm.
"We shouldn't." So, when you want to express something that's not a good idea, something that you don't think, you, as a group should do, you can express that with "We shouldn't (verb)." In this case, also, please remember, you follow the verb with the infinitive form, "We shouldn't do something." "We shouldn't eat." "We shouldn't talk." "We shouldn't forget." So, don't use like an -ING form. Don't use the past tense form here. Please follow "should," this use of "should," the advice form with the simple infinitive form.
"We shouldn't think too much about this."
All right! That is everything for this episode. That was 10 modal verb patterns that you can use. What did you think? You can let us know in the comments. All right! That is everything for this episode. Thanks very much for watching and I will see you again next time. Bye-bye!