The modal verbs are:

can could
may might
shall should
will would
must  

We use modal verbs to show if we believe something is certain, probable or possible (or not). We also use modals to do things like talking about ability, asking permission making requests and offers, and so on.
 

Comments

I am trying to explain to professional colleagues who are translating into Spanish the difference in the use of SHALL in the following two phrases:
"Any requirement shall be permitted to be modified..."
"..the stories in the building shall be determined as follows.."
The former being optional, given the use of the verb permit, vs. the latter which is a mandatory requirement. I have looked at modal verb entries, but not being a professional language teacher, I just don't know how to explain how the difference in the use of "shall" when it modifies the verb permit vs when it is used alone.
The colleague insists that the use of "shall" makes the modification a requirement, and ignores the verb "permitted".
This issue has to do with building codes.
Thank you for any help you may be able to offer.

Hello Patricia MacDougall,

In most cases, 'shall' and 'will' are interchangeable. However, when used in contracts there can be a difference. 'Will' refers simply to a future time, while 'shall' represents an obligation, requirement or duty.

The topic is discussed on this page, which I think will clarify it for you:

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/3389/shall-and-will-in-legal-requirements

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for the reference and your quick reply, Peter.
I see that in legal terms "shall" is complicated. It seems the case especially when translated. I had discovered various references to the "shall/must" argument and the link you have given me supports the ambiguity argument. Finally, with many examples in the same building code between "shall be permitted" vs "shall" I was able to convince the colleagues that the former is an optional provision, while the latter is an obligatory requirement.

Hi Patricia,
I fear you may have over-analysed this. The word 'shall' in both of your examples does indeed imply a mandatory requirement.
In the case of "shall be permitted", the 'shall' simply refers to the obligation that permission be granted (should it be requested).
There is no ambiguity in the value of the word itself, only a difference in context.
Buena suerte con los colegas.

Hi, I have a question. Would 'depending on' be considered a modal verb? As in 'I might go for a walk, depending on how the weather holds out'. Having trouble working out which grammatical category this fits into. Thanks.

Hello shani,

'Depending on' is a participle phrase, not a phrasal verb. The verb is 'depend' and it is often followed by a preposition ('depend on') but it can also be used by itself:

Our answer depends on the cost.

Are you going to buy it? It depends how much it costs.

 

You can see a list of common verbs which are followed by prepositions on this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

That's very helpful, thanks!

Shani

I was to have left on Thursday. But on Thursday I had a terrible cold so I decided to wait till Saturday.

In the above example, can I use "had to" in place of *was to have left"

Hello amol,

In terms of grammar, you can say 'I was to have left' or 'I had to leave', but the meaning is slightly different.

'I was to have left' means the same as 'I was supposed to leave'. It describes a plan or intention which was not completed.

'I had to leave' describes an obligation. It suggests that something made it necessary for you to leave. This may have been something you know in advance or something which surprised you.

There is a problem with the sense of the second sentence, however. 'I had to leave' suggests you had no choice, but the second part of the sentence makes it clear that you did have a choice, because a cold was enough to change your mind. This would appear to be contradictory.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
while asking a question to someone
for future, should we use 'Wll'or
'Going To' ?

When will you buy a car or when are
you going to buy a car and
when will you come or go or when
are you going to come or go ?

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