'must' in the interrogative sentences

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Alex_cs_gsp

Senior Member
Russian & Ukrainian
It's written in my grammar book that the usage of the modal verb 'must' isn't allowed in any interrogative sentences. But while doing a test I met the sentence "Must she visit her uncle? Is it compulsory?", which was said to be correct. How comes it?

Thanks!
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The grammar book probably means that we don't say "Do I must do this?" It cannot be used in interrogative sentences which use an auxiliary verb to form the question, as in my example. Must is a strange verb and needs more explanation than many irregular verbs. That is probably why your book tries to explain some situations where it cannot be used.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    That's the first time I've heard that rule.

    "Must you go? We're having such a lovely time."

    Entering "must + pers. pron" gives hundreds of germane results in the BNC.
     

    Mona 999

    New Member
    Ukrainian
    As far as I know the only case when "must" can be used in an interrogative sentence is when it is used in the meaning of obligation. E.g. She must clean her room today. Must she do it herself?
    When used in all the other meanings (such as prohibition, supposition or emphatic advice) "must" cannot be used in interrogative sentences. :)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Is there any reason for this idiosyncrasy? I suggest ignoring the rule as I and hundreds of others do.
     

    Mona 999

    New Member
    Ukrainian
    I guess you are right. Following strict rules is the realm of literary speech and formal communication. In everyday communication we can ignore lots of rules and understand each other very well.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    When used in all the other meanings (such as prohibition, supposition or emphatic advice) "must" cannot be used in interrogative sentences. :)
    Can't it? Mustn't it? What is the source of this rule?

    (a) 'You must not do that!' 'Mustn't I?' 'Must I not?' Why not?

    (b) 'If it is Tuesday, this must be Belgium.' 'Must it?'

    (c) 'You really must be more careful, you know'. 'Must I?'

    Clearly in such examples the interrogative may appear cheeky, or argumentative, but I don't know of any rule of language which would make them incorrect as English.
     

    Mona 999

    New Member
    Ukrainian
    Well, I found this rule in English grammar book, but the author of the book is Ukrainian. She refers to such grammarians as Hewings, Evans and Swan, so I thought it is a reliable source. But definitely, native speaker should know better, than me.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Woud you mind quoting the rule in the way it is expressed in the book?
    Obviously this will involve translating it, but if you could do that while bearing in mind the context in which the writer gives it, then perhaps we can see what she has in mind.
     

    Mona 999

    New Member
    Ukrainian
    Sure, moreover, the book is written in English, so its not difficult:
    "Must is used in the following meanings:
    1) obligation (from the speaker's point of view)
    In this meaning must is used in affirmative and interrogative sentences with the Indefinite Infinitive:
    e.g. You must clean your room today.
    2) prohibition
    Mustis used in negative sentences and is followed by the Indefinite Infinitive:
    e.g. You mustn't use car without my permission.
    3) emphatic advice
    Must is used in affirmative and negative sentences and is followed only by the Indefinite Infinitive:
    e.g. You must come and see us when you are in London.
    4) supposition implying assurance
    Must is used only in affirmative sentences and may be followed by different forms of the infinitive:
    e.g. They must be waiting for us."
    The book is written by Iryna Zadorozhna, she is an English philologist from Ukraine.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    We have had two emphatic rules stated by Ukrainian contributors in earlier posts:

    (a)
    It's written in my grammar book that the usage of the modal verb 'must' isn't allowed in any interrogative sentences.
    (b)
    When used in all the other meanings (such as prohibition, supposition or emphatic advice) "must" cannot be used in interrogative sentences.
    However, in the extract from Zadorozhna, neither of these rules appears in those terms.
    Is it that the rule has been omitted in that extract, or are the rules deductions made from reading that text of Zadorozhna's?

    My impression is that the rules are deductions by Alex and Mona respectively, and that Alex has gone a step further than Mona in applying the ban on 'must' to all interrogative sentences, not just the three types mentioned by Mona.

    If that impression is correct, then it would seem that the question to be answered comes to this:

    Is the rule as stated by Mona, that is, rule (b), a valid deduction from Zadorozhna's text, and if so, is it valid as a rule of English syntax or grammar?

    Before commenting on that, could I ask you to confirm that that is the question you want answered?
     
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