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A modal is an auxiliary, or helping, verb and is placed in front of another verb to add a different meaning to that verb.



can help



modal + simple verb


This modal adds the idea of "possibility" to the verb "help." Here the meaning is:

  • It is possible for Kevin to help us.
  • Kevin is able to help us.


Modals —

  • are used with the simple form of verbs. (The simple form is the infinitive verb without "to." For example: infinitive = to help; simple form = to help.) "Kevin can help us."
  • eliminate the "s" on the simple form of the verb in third-person singular: "He can help us," not "He can helps us."
  • do not use "do" for questions and short answers.


Short Answer

Can he help us?

He can.

He can help us, can't he?

He might be able to.
Sure he can.

NOT Does he can help us?

He does.

  • usually do not have infinitive forms or participle forms:
    • to can - infinitive
    • canning - participle
    • canned - past participle
  • can be contracted: can not = can't.
  • have two very general kinds of meanings:
    • amount of certainty (completely certain to not at all certain)
    • obligation or freedom to do something (free to do something to not free to do something)

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