9.1. Modalna składnia: teraźniejsza czy przeszła?

Strona w budowie

Jaką możemy rozwinąć strategię, by stawić czoła czasownikom Modalnym w gramatycznej PRZESZŁOŚCI? Możemy użyć składni. Nasza syntaktyczna ekspansja jest podkreślona.

PROBABILITY ― getting to the PAST time extent

38. Where is the handle? It MAY have broken off.

38. Where is the handle? It CAN have broken off.

38a. Where is the handle? It MIGHT have broken off.

39a. Where is the handle? It COULD have broken off.

We can see that syntax does not automatically take us to the PAST, and probability does not depend on the Modal verb only. Probability depends on our context for the grammatical Time, too. We can say for the PRESENT,

__PRESENT field

The handle CAN have broken off.

4 cubes

The handle COULD have broken off.

3 cubes

The handle MAY have broken off.

2 cubes

The handle MIGHT have broken off.

1 cube

Flow of time happens to have a generalizing effect. For the PAST time extent, we may say,

PAST field

The handle COULD have broken off.

4 cubes PAST

The handle MIGHT have broken off.

2 cubes PAST

Some grammars exclude the verbal can have done” from advisable forms and encourage may have done” for proper style. “Can have done” yet has considerable occurrence in contemporary American English. Languages change. A few hundred years ago, people happened to say “thou” or “thee” for “you” in the singular. Who knows how American English evolves? Saying “you” was once bad English (!)

Well, brain logic is not a form of address and cannot depend on grammarian resolves. To decide if a syntactic strategy could help manage Modal verbs, let us think about natural language learning. At some stage, children may show relativity in interpreting language. We could think about an utterance as “Jill promised Jim to smile”. If we ask a child to draw a smile on either Jill’s picture or Jim’s picture, the child may draw the smile on Jim’s picture.


At the very same stage of language progression, children may have no problems with language structures as the Passive: it might be not the Infinitive itself to be the trouble. Could the interpretation of the Infinitive be showing imminent tactics for auxiliary time? Please consider the following idea independently.

We can use our virtual lexical items, to focus on syntax. A lexical item is a word or a phrase we perceive for a unit of meaning, as to take care, for example. Our items are virtual, as they have no meaning, in order to allow focus on form and structure. We remember our color code. We could think about a pattern as,

40. I remember to bimo.

Syntactic structure__I remember to bimo

We also can think about a pattern as,

40a. I remember to have bimoed.

Syntactic structure__I remember to have bimoed

Example 40 says we remember to do something, for example, we remember to brush our teeth every day. Example Example 40a says we are recalling something prior, antecedent.

Our main time reference remains the same. It is the PRESENT. It is our good companion, the verb to have, to allow the antecedent reference in time. Could we take the HAVE and go to the PAST grammatical time with Modals? Let us think about a time frame for the forms MAY HAVE and CAN HAVE.

41. Where is the handle? It MAY HAVE / CAN HAVE broken off.
(Finding the handle is much of an open question.)


Would oranges have handles?
(Please remember from Chapter 9, we cannot be „fixed” on word form, to learn grammar. With Modal verbs, we learn to handle two roles for our syntactic, green HAVE.)

Although we are speaking about something antecedent, our main
time reference remains the PRESENT. How can we make patterns for the PAST?

MIGHT and COULD are PAST Modal forms. Patterns as MIGHT HAVE and COULD HAVE may make the language information for the PAST. This does not mean they always do. Let us see on examples.

41a. I thought the handle MIGHT HAVE / COULD HAVE broken off.
(Finding the handle was not much of an open question, in the case.)

Orange__No handle

Let us compare CERTAINTY in the PAST time extent now.

CERTAINTY ― the PAST time extent

If we put WILL to its PAST form, we may change the language register.

42. These handles always WOULD break off.
(The time compass is the PAST or PRESENT.)


Let us mind that American English uses Modal verbs extensively, for good style. The form „WOULD” does not have to imply doubt. We could see the person at the door and hear or say,
“Would this be Jim?”

We can try our good companion, the auxiliary have.

42a. These handles always WOULD HAVE broken off.
(We can refer to a PAST time.)
5 cubes PAST

Let us compare other Modals.

43. The handle MUST have broken off.
The handle HAD TO break off.

5 cubes PAST

44. The handle SHOULD have broken off.
The handle OUGHT TO have broken off.

3 cubes PAST

45. There NEEDED TO be a handle.
4 cubes PAST

Modal verbs are going to behave a little different for CONTINGENCY.

CONTINGENCY ― the PAST time extent

46. You HAD TO take care of the handle.
5 cubes PAST

47. You SHOULD have taken care of the handle.
You OUGHT TO have taken care of the handle.
3 cubes PAST

48. You NEEDED TO take care of the handle.
4 cubes PAST

Let us focus on the auxiliary HAVE. Would it make antecedent time extents generally? Let us look to one fact about our picture. Saying we have learned, we say we began learning some time before we speak about it. Saying we may have learned, we make the learning a bit of a theory, but still, the theory would be that learning began some time before speaking about it.


Another fact is that antecedent time always would relate to a head time, whether the time would be PAST, PRESENT, or FUTURE.

HAVE LEARNED__Always antecedent

To shape up a good idea for head verbs and time, we can venture common sense, as also in literature. The common sense is what our minds can make out with our senses coming together, undisturbed. We can call it our sane wit, then. The good sense truth here is that it can take real time to make hypotheses, but hypothetical time never can be the same as real time.

Chapter 9.2. expands on the time frame for Modal verbs.

Link to chapter 9.2. The Modal time frame

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