9.4. Modal relativity practice

Our experience with Modal verbs initially might be that “time is short”, especially when we speak. Only good, flexible linguistic habits can make us feel more comfortable.


Exercise 53. We can warm up with virtual words and arrow cues. Let us mind the arrow cues indicate the target time, not the verb form.
Link to the color code and virtual words


For all of this exercise, our Modal time frame remains open (chapter 9.2). We mind the Modal relativity: we can use PRESENT as well as PAST Modal forms, for the grammatical target PRESENT.

Exercise 53__Example__Illustration

Relative time open frame

Example: may


Cue__Present and Progressive


Answer: may be bimoing, or


might be bimoing




Exercise 54. Let us try real verbs. We can use exercise 53. Let us remember about classic grammar stative verb use. The use refers to existence (view in the American Heritage dictionary), and derives from the Latin word “sisto,” to place; compare Perseus word study tool. In our grammar, we use the variable {ON}, for the stative use, also if it takes ignoring other cues.


As in exercise 53, the relative time frame remains open and we mind the Modal relativity. Real-time also requires that we consider how probable something is. We have our cubes here, for guidance.


Exercise 53__Example__Illustration

Relative time open frameExample: read, may
Cue__Present and Progressive


Answer: may be reading, or
2 cubes__Present Progressive
might be reading
1 cube__Present Progressive



Exercise 55. Let us try “jumping” time extents. We mark the relative frames and target time, for underlined items. Our cues mean,


extent-forward“One time extent forward”


extent-backward“One time extent backward”.


Example: In Washington D.C., you WILL BE ABLE TO visit the Library of Congress.


Answer: In Washington D.C., you can / may visit the Library of Congress.
PRESENT SIMPLE arrowRelative time open frame


1. After a day of a hop-on and hop-off the Washington trolley, you MAY feel you should have bought a two-day ticket.


2. In Washington, we were renting right on the Potomac. The area was lovely. You just HAD TO take a walk along the river.


3. You MUST book your seats in the Lisner Auditorium. The American Air Force jazz ensemble may perform live.


4. You NEED TO give up on wading in the waterfalls of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Park. It is not allowed.


5. You MAY enter the National Gallery of Art on first-come basis.




From the key: natural language happens to involve rich text interpretation. The “Washington trolley” will be the Washington trolley tour, for example. Kids as well as adults, students as well as teachers, use the rich interpretation quite often. It would be cumbersome to provide all details every time we speak, whatever the language.


We learn to check on facts and trivia. Here is a sample search over Google. We can just type Washington trolley in the search field.


Example 1 has the Modal phrase “MAY feel” for a nodal reference. The phrase “SHOULD have bought” is a subordinate. We can have a peek at MAY for the PRESENT and FUTURE, in chapter 10.1.


We can view HAVE TO also with a real-time closed frame and the Infinitive. A phrase as, “We

had to have worked hard”, could tell about a fact, not a hypothesis or opinion.


Many grammars will tell we can use BE ABLE TO rather than MAY, when we refer to the FUTURE. However, if we resolve on example 3 as, “the ensemble will be able to perform”, we imply the ensemble might have difficulty playing. The matter here is about probability. We can think about MAY with an open relative frame, to suggest prospect: “(Tomorrow) the American Air Force jazz ensemble MAY perform live”.


In example 5, we talk about permission. We may choose to say, “We will be able to / We will be allowed to…”


Exercise 56. We can try “targeting” time extents. Our target time extent is the one in which we “land”. Let us be flexible, especially with examples 3 and 5.


A target can be a goal to achieve. Linguistics uses the term “target” for goals in language and speech. Our articulatory targets, for example, are speech sounds as we intend them.


We can refer our examples to American literature. Let these here invoke the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.


Telling language styles is part every language learning, and comes early in life. The story here has dialectal American English. We cannot follow this style in formal writing. The language forms yet are not erroneous, as they are consistently dialectal. Further, it does not mean the stories do not have grammar cognitive variables. We can think about them, reading.


Example: I thought I WOULD behave a while if I COULD.


Answer: I think I WILL behave a while if I CAN.


I think I WOULD behave a while if I COULD.
(We mind the Relativity.)


1. But how CAN we do it if we don’t know what it is?


2. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you HAD TO come to time.


3. And more ― they‘VE GOT TO (HAVE TO) waltz that palace around over the country wherever you want it, you understand.


4. It fetched us a dollar a day apiece, all the year round ― more than a body COULD tell what to do with.


5. Well, three or four months run along, and it was well into the winter, now. I had been to school most all the time, and COULD spell, and read, and write just a little, and COULD say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty-five, and I don’t reckon I COULD ever get any further than that if I was to live forever.




From the key: The phrases “you understand” (example 3), or “I don’t reckon” (example 5), tell the time of the narrator, the character to tell the story. Human lives are not just stories, but the narrator time can help comprehend the notional time, the time of the person who speaks. Naturally, there is no universal notional time. We have to learn to keep own notional times. We can have our notional time for our psychological time, too.


Narratives or stories often use the personal pronoun we. In our grammar story, the pronoun we is to help avoid judgmental comment. It is a personally neutral figure of speech. We can discuss language without assuming on me or you.


The phrase “if I was to live forever” is an example of figurative thinking. Chapter 10 has more. Part Three expands on speech parts, as in “three or four months run along”.




Exercise 57. Let us try to choose our Modals. We can stay on associations with Huckleberry for a while.


Example: He MAY / WILL be in the woods now.
(I know that he is in the woods.)


Answer: He WILL be in the woods now.


1. Let us not worry about it. There WILL / CAN be no advantage to it.
(It is certain that there is going to be no advantage.)


2. They HAD TO go / MAY HAVE gone out to the woods.
(The woods are not the only way.)


3. You SHOULD learn / SHOULD HAVE learned the way through the woods.
(Now is the time to learn.)


4. You MAY / WILL get lost in these woods.
(It is certain.)


5. They HAD TO get / MAY HAVE gotten lost in the woods.
(We are looking for them. The only way is through the woods.)


6. You SHOULDN’T/ CAN’T get lost in these woods.
(It is impossible. You know the way very well.)


7. He DIDN’T HAVE TO get / COULDN’T HAVE gotten lost in the woods.
(He knew the way.)


8. They MUST HAVE / MAY HAVE gotten lost in the woods.
(They took the way through the woods.)


9. You MAY / HAVE TO avoid the way through the woods.
(It is not safe.)


10. You WOULD HAVE / SHOULD HAVE gotten lost in the woods.
(That was certain.)




From the key: In example 4, the Modal verb WILL tells about CERTAINTY for the PRESENT and the FUTURE. The FUTURE is usually an open context, the way life on Earth has been. We use WILL when we are sure or resolved about something. We may compare example 3 in Exercise 55 and try to avoid the cumbersome, soothsayer style in our English.




Exercise 58. Our story is now about general POTENTIALITY and PROBABILITY, in the grammatical PAST. We do not require an auxiliary time extent. Our relative time frame remains open. We can be back with the dayfly from exercise 43, in subchapter 7.1.


Example: The dayfly (can think) about matter, without butterflies.


Answer: The dayfly could think about matter, without butterflies.


1. The dayfly (consider) it somewhat rude of the butterfly to make reservations on the wings. They (may differ), but there (be) no reason for the remark. Anyway, now the butterfly (have to be) far away, with its wings.


2. The dayfly (start) to think about infinity. If there (be) infinity, the word “infinite” (can) only denote it. You (need) five letters to write the word. The letters and the word (be) undeniably finite.
(NEED can be a head verb. Compare Appendix 1.)


3. There (have to be) some matter to the alphabet, the dayfly thought. Five letters (can make) an eight-letter word (!) You just (need to compose) them. The number of possible words you (can make) with the alphabet (have to be) innumerable. That (be) the closest approximation to infinity the dayfly (may envision).


4. Letters also (can express) numbers. The dayfly (think) about other alphabets. If there (will be) anything universal about all letters in the world, that (can be) the essence of writing. Nothing as universal readily (occur) to the dayfly, however.


5. Letters (may take) various shapes. Only language (may give) writing its matter. The dayfly (start musing) if there (may be) universal thoughts.




From the key: in example 1, the phrase “might differ” tells about holding to an opinion. We can give it an open frame. It is up to our choosing if and what opinions we hold. Further journey has more detail on Modal frames and nodal time.


We can be back with the westerly from exercise 44.




Exercise 59. The westerly is in the mountains. So far, our Modal time frames were ready for us: we only adapted the verb. Now, we have to decide if we open the frame or close it. Generally, we are in the grammatical PAST. On top of everything, we think about Expression: we learn to manage big, real-life language information pools.


Example: The westerly (can gambol) on the shore a little longer, but it (gather) to go see the future: the mountains.


Answer: The westerly COULD HAVE gamboled on the shore a little longer, but it gathered to go see the future: the mountains.


1. What (will happen) about the present time ? The westerly (can perceive) something indivisible and intermediate about time. Time (be) in a way continuous. It (have to consist) of parts, however.


2. The present (have to border) on the past and the future. The present (be) somehow intermediary between the past and the future. However, how long (will) the present (be)? Sometimes, you (can view) the present as lasting as long as a day. Sometimes, it (will last) a split second.


3. Well, you (can) N (exist) only in the future or only in the past. With this regard, there always (will be) a present moment that (will be) the only present. There (will be) N anything of the past or the future, in the present?


4. The wester (get) to the mountains. They (be) its present now. The wester (can) N (think) about a more beautiful present. It (need) N the ocean view to see something beautiful any more.


5. How these beautiful mountains (can emerge)? The wester (speculate) if  winds (may shape) part their structure.




From the key: With example 4, if we say the wester “COULDN’T think about a more beautiful present”, we place the matter in the mountains. Alternately, if we say the wind “COULDN’T HAVE thought about a more beautiful present”, we make the frame to the time before it came to the mountains, when it was on the shore, in exercise 44.




Grammar books will have much advice on Modal verbs with patterns named the Unreal Past or Conditional. For a comparison, let us try a grammar theory of relativity. Our use of the word “relativity” is not about physics or families. It is linguistic. See chapter 10.


Link to chapter 10. Modal__Conditional or Unreal Past