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Can/could/may... Must/have to...

After studying and making a difference between the modals expressing the uncertainty of an action test, we are now going to study other nuances of the modal auxiliaries concerning the freedom of action of a subject.





1) CAPACITY and FREEDOM the SUBJECT has to ACT (or not):

Physical or intellectual Capacity (in the present or in the past); CAN is the modal auxiliary expressing physical and intellectual capacity; in the negative, CAN'T expresses  physical and intellectual incapacity

ex: The robot can move its lips in time with the words (physical capacity) and it can speak six different foreign languages ...(intellectual capacity).  

ex: Melissa couldn't speak about her dilemma to anyone. (= incapacity in the past)

2) PERMISSION (may/can): THE FREEDOM OF ACTION (to act, or not to act) is expressed with 'MAY', and refusal will be built with CAN'T. 

  Can I borrow your book, please? is less polite than 'May I borrow ... ?' or 'Could I borrow ...?'

ex: Yes, Kevin, you may leave the table now, but you can't leave the house!

3) OBLIGATION or INTERDICTION: in both cases, the FREEDOM of ACTION is denied. 

*  MUST indicates an obligation felt by the speaker:

ex: I must go now, as I still have a lot of homework to do.

HAVE TO insists on pure facts and regulations:

ex: You have to leave now ! No visits after six ! 

* The absence of necessity  minimizes the restriction of freedom. It can be expressed in three different, but equivalent, ways:  

ex: You needn't bring your own book!( = IN THE PRESENT)

ex: You didn't need to bring your own book! (in another tense than the present) OR You didn't have to bring your own book! 



Now, you're ready for the test !   Go for it ! 

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- 'Oh Mom, here while you go to the doctor's?'
- 'Of course you , Elsa ... Don't you remember that a shot (une piqûre) today?
If I , I would take you to watch a film instead, but I !
If you don't have it today, you it tomorrow ... Really, procrastinate!
- 'Procras' what? ' repeat, please, Mom?'
- 'Procrastinate' ! It's a word ! It means : 'delay, or postpone'!'
- 'Come on, Mom ! You to use learned words just to make me go to the doctor's... I know I ... Don't worry! I'll go! You pretend I'm a baby... I'm a big girl!'

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