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8 Your 15 Minutes of Fame

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Your online grammar class continues. You have already covered some basics and now you are moving towards more complex structures and more nuances in your communication by using auxiliary verbs. Another key factor in writing as well as in reading comprehension is understanding the word order in English.

When you live abroad, you can sometimes become a piece of news yourself. There might be a little story about you in the local paper, a quick interview on the radio - not to mention workplace or club newsletters which are always in need of stories.The topics and questions in these interviews and articles can range from your favorite food to larger-than-life questions. This week you will be a topic in a small news article but you have been asked to provide the story yourself.



Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs are helping verbs that are used with main verbs to express time and mood. These include be, do and have. They also include the modal auxiliary verbs can, could, must, may, might, shall, should, will and would.

Auxiliary verbs help in forming questions and negatives; they express the tense and the person:

  • Are you from Finland?
  • Is that bird called a magpie?
  • There weren’t any clouds in the sky.
  • Have you been to the new Italian restaurant?
  • Harry has two old motorcycles.
  • He hasn’t had enough time to fix the bikes.
  • Do you like chocolate cake?
  • Does your mother know where you are?
  • Tina doesn’t go to the movies during the workweek.
  • You don’t need to have a visa to travel to Britain.
  • Mark will move to Perth next year.
  • Will Linda go with Mark?

Modal auxiliary verbs (modal verbs / modal auxiliaries) are used to express permission, obligation, or ability. They are also used in suggestions, invitations, requests and offers. These verbs differ from main verbs in that

  • They don’t have a base form
  • They don’t have an -ing form
  • You can’t use the same word in all of the tenses
  • There is no 3rd person singular –s/-es form
  • There is no particle to between them and the main verb
  • You can make questions and negatives with them

Some of them have two forms, some have just one. Take a look at the table

present tense past tense all tenses used to express
can could be able to ABILITY
may might be allowed to PERMISSION
must   have to OBLIGATION
will would   WILLINGNESS
shall should   WILLINGNESS
ought to     OBLIGATION

Look at the sentences below and think of the differences between them.

I can travel to London. ABILITY, PERMISSION
I could travel to London. ABILITY, POSSIBILITY
I am able to travel to London. ABILITY, PERMISSION
I may travel to London. POSSIBILITY
I might travel to London. POSSIBILITY
I am allowed to travel to London. PERMISSION
I must travel to London. OBLIGATION
I must not travel to London. PROHIBITION
I have to travel to London. OBLIGATION
I ought to travel to London. OBLIGATION, NECESSITY
I shall travel to London. INTENTION
I should travel to London. INTENTION, NECESSITY
I will travel to London. INTENTION
I would travel to London. WILLINGNESS, CONDITION


Need and dare can be used both as a regular verb or a modal auxiliary verb. As a modal auxiliary verb need expresses some sort of obligation and as a regular verb it refers to some sort of necessity. Dare means to have the courage for something. Take a look at these examples:

As a regular verb:

Danny doesn’t need to behave so badly and he needs to hear it from you!
He won’t dare to misbehave after that!

As an auxiliary verb:

Danny needn’t be in court for the hearing. Need I be there?
Dare I ask what kind of a jail sentence his buddies might get?

Used to always refers to some habit or event that happened often in the past. There is usually some difference between the past and the present situation. For example,

Danny used to behave badly but now he is more interested in his future.
His parents used to be mad at him all the time but now everyone gets along well.

Exercise 8.1

First, take another look at the sentences with modal auxiliary verbs above. You will see some of the same sentences below. Your task is to write new sentences by adding some more information to each one given. This way you will give the original sentence a context. Your own words can come before or after the given sentence. Here are two examples:

I am not sure what to do on my summer holiday but maybe I could travel to London.
I am able to travel to London twice a year because of my job.


  1. I could travel to London.
  2. I might travel to London.
  3. I am allowed to travel to London.
  4. I must travel to London.
  5. I must not travel to London.
  6. I have to travel to London.
  7. I ought to travel to London.
  8. I should travel to London.
  9. I will travel to London.
  10. I would travel to London.

Photo: Flickr / jmanteau (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

You can find more information and some exercises on the modal auxiliaries at these sites:

British Council English Grammar
Grammar and Quizzes

Exercise 8.2

A bucket list is a list of things people want to do before they die (“kick the bucket”). Listen to the conversation and pay attention to how auxiliary verbs and conditionals are used. In addition, listen to the accents of the speakers. What kinds of differences can you detect? What are your feelings towards different accents - any favourites?

What are your goals for your own spoken language skills? Write about that in your learner diary.

Listening Comprehension: What’s on Your ’Bucket List’?

Exercise 8.3

Fill in:

Modals and auxiliary verbs. Fill in the sentences by choosing the correct alternative:

Andrea and Matthew were sitting at the kitchen table talking about things they had done and what they wanted to accomplish. Both agreed that they definitely  finish school. Andrea  complete all her courses last year because she had been working too much. She  to turn in some homework late, which had helped a lot. She thought she really  organize her schedule better. Matthew had been abroad for three months. He  have stayed there longer but he  apply for a new visa. He  have got it easily but he thought he  come home for a while and get his diploma. Andrea thought that things  get easier at work soon. Matthew said he  find a job and work part-time so that he  pay his bills and go on holiday. Andrea  go with him.
Andrea: We really  go somewhere… Okay, let’s just do it. Where  we go?
Matthew: The trip  cost very much, but some of those beach holidays  be quite inexpensive. When  we go? We  decide soon or we  get to go anywhere.
Andrea: I  be gone a whole week but  get off some Friday and Monday. That  be okay, ?
Matthew: Sure. We  do that.  we go ahead and book something right now?
Andrea: I  talk with my boss first. But let’s see what’s available. There  not be anything interesting that we  afford.
Matthew: There  be something – I am so ready to go! What about Greece?


Word order

Using the correct word order in English is very important but not particularly complicated. There are exceptions of course, but we will cover the basics in this segment.

In regular sentences in English follow this word order

Subject - predicate - direct / indirect object - adverbs (manner - place - time)

The subject comes before the predicate and the object, if there is one, comes right after the predicate.

Timothy bought a tennis racket. His brother laughed.

Subject - predicate - direct object / indirect object - adverb (manner - place - time)

David sang a love song to his wife very beautifully at the anniversary party last Saturday.
David sang his wife a love song very beautifully at the anniversary party last Saturday.

The order of the direct and indirect object depends on the use of the particle
to : the indirect object follows the direct object if it is formed with to and before it if there is no to.

The girl showed her new watch to me.
The girl showed me her new watch.
She showed it to me twice.

There are rules regarding the placement of adverbs and adverb phrases

1. After the object (most adverbs and adverb phrases can be placed here)

Many people buy used items at this store.

2. Before the subject (very common adverbs such as sometimes, yesterday )

Sometimes people buy things they won't use.

3. Before the main verb (always, often, usually, never, ever )

People have always liked that shopkeeper.
Jeffrey has never sold anything else but used items.

There is more flexibility with the placement of some adverbs and adverbials than others:

Julia finished her dinner quickly because we were in a hurry.
Julia quickly finished her dinner because we were in a hurry.

When there are several words or expressions in the adverb group, go from smaller to larger:

We will be ready to leave at 6 a.m. on Friday.
The kids were playing on the swings in the play park in the heart of the city.


Word order in questions

This is the basic rule

question word (if there is one) - auxiliary /modal verb - subject - main verb - the rest of the sentence

Where does Susan live these days?
Does Susan live near here?
Is Susan still working at the bank?
Has she worked at the same place all these years?
Can she take much time off?
How often do you see her?
Who lives next door to her? (Notice that you do not need an auxiliary or modal verb with who.)
Why do you want to know?


Word order in indirect questions

Keep in mind that indirect questions are not the same as direct questions. The word order in indirect questions is the same as in regular sentences.

Mary did not know who the tall man was.
She asked her sister if she knew him. 

 Exercise 8.4


Photo: Flickr / mccmicb (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Write your own bucket list: name ten things that you would like to do or accomplish in your lifetime (total length 120-200 words).

Exercise 8.5

Reading Comprehension

Find a human interest story in an online newspaper or magazine (in English) and read it. Write down the main points of the story. In addition, write three questions that you would have asked the interviewee (= the person who was interviewed). Use some auxiliary verbs in your questions.

The length of your text should be 150 words. Submit your text below with a link to the original article:


Exercise 8.6

 Write: An Article on You 

There will be a story about you in a company/club newsletter or a local newspaper in your new home town. The article will have three sections:

First, you need to provide some basic information on yourself (details below). These are very short answers, just a few words. They do not need to be complete sentences.

Second, you have been given some beginnings of sentences and you need to complete them (details below).

Third, you need to write a short article about yourself for the story. You can tell anything you want in the article but do not repeat the information you have already given in the first two parts.

Basic Information:

  • Full name:
  • Hometown:
  • Household:
  • Education:
  • Job status:

Complete these sentences:

The best time of the day is… because…
My favorite pastime has been… because…
I would never… because…
Meeting new people might be … because…
Learning can be … because…

Your article (150 words) – if possible, add a picture of something that is significant to you.

After you have written a draft of your article, study the grammar lesson on word order below. Then come back to complete your text.

Submit all three parts of the exercise below.


 Exercise 8.7

Rewrite these sentences in the plural. In addition to the nouns, pay attention to the subject/verb agreement and the pronouns. (50 points)

Here's an example: The musk ox is a tundra animal. -> The musk oxen are tundra animals.

1. What is the basis for this diagnosis?

2. The evening news covered the latest crisis.

3. This park provides the city a wonderful oasis.

4. Minnie’s cactus has some fungus.

5. That person showed us a photo of some species of octopus.

6. The science class studied an interesting weather phenomenon.

7. How does a tornado develop?

8. The scientist shared some information on that and showed a video.

9. Please tell the man he can't put such a heavy box on the lid of the piano.

10. Mike saw a woman and a child chasing a goose by an old barracks.

11. Some lady saw a mouse under the furniture.

12. Only the top branch of the apple tree has a new leaf.

13. The syllabus of each subject was examined carefully.

14. What is the criterion for the new emphasis?

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