This is an opportune blog post as we have been doing language analysis work and discussing theoretical vs pedagogic grammars.

Read Scott Thornbury’s post and comment on the validity of the following statements about various modal verbs taken from a variety of pedagogic grammars

Please add your reflection in a comments below the post.


  1. You also use might have or could have followed by a past participle to say that if a particular thing had happened, then there was a possibility of something else happening.

  2. You use could not have or couldn’t have followed by a past participle to say that it is not possible that someone had the ability to do something.

  3. You use used to be able to to say that something was possible in the past but it is not possible now.

  4. Have to expresses unavoidable necessity as distinct from personal obligation.

  5. Modals do not normally indicate the time when something happens. There are, however, a few exceptions: shall and will often indicate a future event or situation; could is used as the past form of can to express ability; would is used as the past form of will to express the future.

  6. Instead of using modals you can use other words and expressions. For example: be able to is used instead of can, be likely to is used instead of might, and have to is used instead of must.

  7. didn’t need to expresses no obligation and therefore no action — needn’t have expresses no obligation but the action was performed.

  8. Modal verbs are those verbs in English which show the mood of the main verb. They cannot stand on their own in a sentence because they need another verb which they “colour.” That’s why they are called defective verbs as well (defective = something with a problem or a fault).

  9. We use should have/ought to have + past participle when we expected something to happen and we do not know if it happened. We also use this structure when we expected something to happen, but it did not happen.

Comments below post please 🙂

Image – royalty free from morguefiles.com

An A-Z of ELT

Palmer happy etcHow do you write a pedagogic grammar?  Or, more realistically, how do you judge the worth of one that has already been written?

This is a task I regularly set my MA TESOL students, i.e. to put a teacher’s or learner’s grammar of their choice to the test, and to come up with a set of criteria for evaluating pedagogic grammars in general.

The criteria that result almost always involve issues of accessibility. How easy is it to find what you want? How clearly is it organized and signposted? How clear are the explanations? and so on.

Accessibility is a real issue. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the students who have little or no ELT background find performing even simple research tasks incredibly difficult. Asked to rule on the grammaticality of I’m lovin’ it, for example, one student failed to locate the distinction between stative and dynamic verbs in Parrott (2000), even…

View original post 962 more words

Published by Marisa Constantinides

I train TEFL teachers at CELT in Athens Greece and online - our main courses are Cambridge CELTA and Delta. I interact with educators from all over the world through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and through blogging

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