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When we use should and shall or could and can, would and will

For learning: English
Base language: English
Category: Other


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    I will try to show you the use of these modal auxiliaries as they can be quite complex but I will try to give a quick answer.

    Notice in my sentence above "I will try." The "will" expresses willingness, sometimes called volition. Sometimes it just expresses future time, but in current English "be going to" and simple present can also do this.

    'Would' is often called the past of will, but it also expresses other thoughts. It can mean willingness to perform a hypothetical action, such as, "I would help you if you needed help." In this sentence, you do not need help, but I would help if you did.

    'Would' can also be used to express habit in the past, as in "When I was a child, I would sleep with my teddy bear."

    'Can' expresses ability. 'Could' is often called the past of can, and is used the way 'would' is used in a hypothetical situation, where the speaker wants to express ability instead of willingness.

    'Could' sometimes also is used to make suggestions. Example: We could go to the beach, or we could go to the park.

    'Shall' is not much used as much in American English as British English. Its use is mostly confined to utterances such as, " Let's go, shall we?" "Shall I pick you up at 7pm?"

    'Should' expresses advisability--that something is a good idea. If I think you are sick, I say, "You should go to the doctor."

    Less often we use 'should' to make a prediction about something we think will happen. Example: The train should come in five minutes.

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