Related Topics


Simple Past

Present Perfect

Past Perfect


Future Perfect

Strong Verbs



Reflexive Verbs


Special Subjunctive

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Dartmouth German
  Studies Department

The Modal Auxiliaries in English:

English features a group of "helping verbs" that function differently from most others: "can", "may", "must", "shall", "should", and "will". They do not describe an action, but express an attitude toward an action that is usually represented by an infinitive. Their present-tense conjugations resemble the simple past of strong verbs ("the truth will out"), and they do not use "to" when combining with infinitives ("she can go home"). They form past and future tenses in various ways: "I can," "I could," "I had been able to," "I will be able to"). Note also that "to" is omitted when citing the auxiliary verb itself; we do not say "to must."

The Modal Auxiliaries in German:

Models in the Past Tenses:

Examples of the Simple Past Tense with Modals:

Forming the Present Perfect and Past Perfect Tenses with Modals:

Special Meanings of the Modal Auxiliaries:

"dürfen" has several meanings:

"können" also has a variety of meanings:


  One has to do everything oneself


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