General Writing and Grammar Help/modal phrase

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Question
Dear Ted,

Can you please tell me what is meant by a “modal phrase”.

In my studies, I found the following sentences that were described as having "modal phrases" being introduced by the subordinating conjunction “as”:

I acted as you suggested I do.

The motorist was driving badly, as if he were drunk.


But, I don’t know what is meant by “modal phrase”.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

Can you please tell me what is meant by a “modal phrase”.

In my studies, I found the following sentences that were described as having
"modal phrases" being introduced by the subordinating conjunction “as”:

I acted as you suggested I do.

The motorist was driving badly, as if he were drunk.

*** A modal phrase is simply a verb with an auxiliary [helping] verb that is in a modal form.  Here is the definition from "The Heath Handbook."

Certain auxiliary verbs, known as MODAL AUXILIARIES indicate necessity, possibility,willingness, obligation , or ability.  EXAMPLES:  must, will, would, shall, should, may, might, can, could, need [to], and ought [to].

SENTENCES:  In the near future farmers MIGHT CULTIVATE seaweed as a food crop.
Coal mining WOULD BE safer if dust were controlled in the mines.

**** The modal phrases in the sentences above are in capital letters.

The "mode" refers to the subjunctive mood.  For example, "as if he were drunk" is in the subjunctive mood, because the statement is a supposition, not a declaration.

*** I have a feeling that you may be trying to coordinate the Italian with the English.  This type of phrase is used much more in the Italian language.

I have a suggestion for you.  Put this into your browser's search box:

http://www.google.com

When the next screen opens, type "modal phrases."

You will get many pages of descriptive material.

Here are a few that I found:

http://italian.about.com/od/grammar/a/italian-subordinating-conjunctions.htm

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=http://italian.about.com/od/

*** The two sites above are the same.  The first is the English version; the second is the translated-from-Italian original version.

http://www.myenglishpages.com/site_php_files/grammar-lesson-modals.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_modal_verbs

http://grammar.about.com/od/mo/g/modalterm.htm

Ted  

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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