Modal verbs - why are they called "modal"?

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by drei_lengua, Nov 23, 2006.

  1. drei_lengua

    drei_lengua Senior Member

    Guten Tag,

    Warum werden "müssen", "sollen", "mögen", "können", etc. "Modal"verben genannt?

  2. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale

    This may help more than a thousand posts. It gets right to the point, showing the relationship of English to German:


    For me, this is the most important part:

    can können
    should sollen
    will wollen
    must müssen
    may mögen
    dare dürfen

    The link also shows Dutch. I did note one problem immediately:

    He can, should, will, must, may. These all follow the same pattern. It appears to me that "shall" has been omitted. He shall.

    He dares, he needs do not follow the pattern at all, not in English, since they are conjugated as regular verbs.

  3. konungursvia Banned

    Canada (English)
    Because they change the mode or aspect of the verb, as opposed to the tense.
  4. MrMagoo

    MrMagoo Senior Member

    Westphalia, Germany
    Westphalia, Germany; German

    But only when used as a full verb:

    "He needs help" but "He need not go".

    "dare" is a rare verb which went over to almost normal conjugation.
    A remain of the former conjugation is "fossiled" in the form he daresay (from "he dare say").

  5. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    This is a strange verb when used this way. I had never thought about it before.

    He need only act.
    Ne need merely say the word.
    He need not take action.

    Using "need" in this manner without negation or an extra word inserted is, at the least, extremely rare.

    The negation does resemble other modals, but it has severe limitations. I wonder if it was once used more like the other modals?

    It is also unclear to me when "he need" ceases to act as a modal and begins to function as a subjuctive:

    "All he need do is to…"

    Subjunctive or modal in present tense? I'm not sure!
    I'm not so sure it is as different from "need" as you think.

    Again, it is not uncommon in its negated form:

    "He dare not" is used, and again I don't get a subjuctive feeling.

    For instance, I believe "He dare not lose face" = "He doesn't dare lose face."

    Regardless, I'm glad you made those points. I had not considered them!

  6. MrMagoo

    MrMagoo Senior Member

    Westphalia, Germany
    Westphalia, Germany; German
    I'm pretty sure it is modal in present tense indicative.
    The missing "-s" is a phenomen typical for preterite-present-verbs.
    ---> For more information about the origin of the "s-less" forms, also have a look at this former discussion:

    Ah, good - I just wasn't sure about its usage, so that's why I answered so carefully. ;) In that case, "dare" of course is not different from "need", they resemble the same paradigm.

    No problem... ;)

  7. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    I read through the whole thread. I agree with you. :)
    As we both know, you have a tremendous amount of knoweledge about WHY these "things" do what they do. I'm going strickly by feel, and I'm also curious.

    At this moment it does seem that "need" and "dare" work the same way. Of all that I read the most interesting part for me is that a modal such as "can" may in fact be a former past tense (ran). ;)


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